Tryst (Chiswick Playhouse)

Tryst is currently enjoying a second revival at the Chiswick Playhouse, where it last played in 2017. A two-hander inspired by a true story, it is a melodramatic thriller running straight through at ninety minutes.

George Love (Fred Perry) is a misogynist and opportunist, preying on young vulnerable women he refers to as “it” when he thinks they have money put by. His modus operandi is putting on the charm and the hard sell to get fake marriages and access to bank books.

It’s 1910, and shy Adelaide Pinchon (Scarlett Brookes) works in the back room of a hat shop. Her home life is boring, her father a bully. When George spots her through the shop window, putting on a posh accent and spinning lots of lies about his past, she falls fast and quickly.

Fred Perry and Scarlett Brookes in Tryst
Fred Perry and Scarlett Brookes in Tryst

Both characters have asides to the audience in the early scenes – George is caddish and cruel, Adelaide idealistic, the script is funny and sharp. Both these characters appear personable and interesting, and at times we root for both.

The second scene, in a dingy Weston-super-mare hotel room “overlooking the privy and the dustbins” reveals vulnerabilities on both sides, with George seeming to have a heart after all.

Both Perry and Brookes inhabit their characters perfectly under Phoebe Barran’s direction. Karoline Leach’s play, first staged in the late 1990s, becomes a game of cat and mouse as Adelaide finds an inner strength and pride she’s lacked all her life, but a genuinely shocking conclusion seems to come out of nowhere.

Scarlett Brookes and Fred Perry in Tryst
Scarlett Brookes and Fred Perry in Tryst

I would recommend staying away from the real story behind the character of George if you can, and just let the plot of Tryst carry you along. In a set designed by Jessica Staton props are only revealed when they need to be, and Chris McDonnell’s lighting gives the stage an evocative Edwardian feel.

Tryst might benefit from a trim or two – and some of the language and references feel wrong for the time (notably a description of films at the cinematograph which were twenty years old at the time this was set). It does make for a chilling (and chilly, as the theatre was freezing last night!) evening of drama.

Tryst continues at the Chiswick Playhouse until 29 February. Photo credits by Savannah Photographic.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Tryst.