The Smallest Hour is the two-hander closing Griffin Theatre Company’s 2018 season. Written and performed by Phil Spencer, Griffin’s Artistic Associate, and actor-writer Susie Youssef, its story unfolds over the course of an evening in a city like Sydney (but that, according to the script, is “not actually Sydney … but it is a lot like Sydney”.) It’s the story of two young people, both around the age of 30, neither of whom are particularly satisfied with the current state of their life.
Chris (Spencer) is heading off to perform a stripping gig. He’s not an adept stripper and is self-conscious about his body, but he’s heard it’s a great way to earn some easy cash and he’s gotten himself a police officer costume so that he looks the part. On the same evening, Shelly (Youssef) is attending her best friend’s Hen’s night for which she’s been tasked with running a quiz. It’s fair to say that neither Chris nor Shelly is excited about the night ahead.
During the night, the two cross paths and immediately recognise each other – more than 10 years back, they went to school together. There’s some conversation before the two continue on their own ways, yet each of them instantly regrets their decision to do so. Some kind of spark was ignited between them and both wish they’d pursued the other. Fortunately, however, Shelly forgets to take her wallet with her, giving Chris the opportunity to track her down and continue what they started.
This romantic comedy, in which Spencer and Youssef constantly and effortlessly switch between narrating and portraying their characters, is a light and engaging feel-good piece that tells us to be hopeful even where a whole lot of optimism seems to make little sense. The events of Chris’ and Shelly’s nights are described in fine detail and there are several amusing and familiar references to aspects of life in “a city like Sydney” (including our controversial lock-out laws), and the players prove to be wonderful storytellers. Spencer is affable and demonstrates some impressive physical comedy skills, while Youssef is similarly endearing and has a knack for deadpan delivery of funny lines.
With unobtrusive direction by Scarlet McGlynn, The Smallest Hour moves along at about the right pace and its running time appropriately capped at 65 minutes. Tyler Hawkins’ simple set (made up of a wall of coloured fluorescent tubes, a stone platform and an L-shaped bench) does the job, while his costumes reflect just how ordinary these two people really are. Meanwhile, Steve Francis’ soundscape also meaningfully assists in helping us to conjure images of a familiar city.
On opening night, it felt as though this was a run-through or two away from being the well-oiled machine it needs to be, but that’s a minor criticism. The Smallest Hour is a fitting finale to Griffin’s season, reminding us that great opportunities and life turns can be born from the most ordinary of circumstances. But don’t hesitate to seize them!
THE SMALLEST HOUR – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 15 December, 2018
Times: Monday – Friday 7pm; Saturday 2pm & 7pm
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross)
Bookings: (02) 9361 3817 or griffintheatre.com.au