Review: The Greatest Play in the History of the World... by Tara Finney Productions

A powerful solo performance contemplating love and legacy

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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The Greatest Play in the History of the World... Image: Jonathan Keenan
Published 04 Aug 2018

It’s 4:40am. Preston Road in Manchester is suspiciously quiet. Tom lays awake at number 28. He contemplates his broken heart and the idea that his life may be stuck in a neverending rut of repetition.

This might be a normal winter’s evening for a single 30-something, but something isn’t right. In two other houses on his street, two other people are awake and time has stopped. Literally – it’s still 4:40am despite Tom pondering his existence for nearly an hour.

Julie Hesmondhalgh narrates Tom’s story and that of the other people up at this obscene hour. In between scenes, her pre-recorded voice tells us of golden records onboard the Voyager spaceship that exist to inform alien races about the wonders of Earth. The disparate ideas and the surreal mystery of Tom's nighttime adventure come together in the end with surprise and unpredictability. The connection between the two is tenuous, but combine to create a poignant epilogue.

Ian Kershaw's script is sophisticated, multi-layered and never predictable. The simple solo performance allows the writing to shine, and Hesmondhalgh—known for Coronation Street—is a warm, engaging performer who convinces several audience members to lend her shoes to represent some of the characters that appear in her story. The filament lightbulbs suspended from the theatre's ceiling are like stars or thoughts, and the pairs of shoes remind us where we have been, where we have yet to go and the legacy we leave behind.