Star-crossed lovers, the heavy weight of war, and post-war times and always a wish for reconciliation. One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne is a heartfelt telling of a story that many of the World War II generation must have experienced and lived through. It takes a clever look at what might have been and was not meant to be, with just a couple of loose ends that could have been tied up.

Credit: Nick Payne

In One Day When We Were Young, Violet and Leonard spend what could be their last night together in a hotel room in Bath. It is 1942 and the young, unmarried couple faces the fact that Leonard will depart to the war the next morning. They share their fears, hopes, and dreams as the world drastically changes when the bombs begin to fall. The scene changes to a park in the early 60’s, where Violet and Leonard meet again. They have clearly grown apart as the promise of waiting for each other has not been kept. Viloet is living with her husband and two children in their old hometown while Leonard has been caring for his mother in a flat in Luton. The bitterness and helplessness are so intense, it almost becomes hard to watch. In a last scene change, the star-crossed lovers have another encounter in the year 2002. Both of their lives have changed drastically again, as Violet is widowed, and Leonard faces illness and the hardships of growing old.

Credit: Nick Payne

Following the story of Violet and Leonard in One Day When We Were Young is enjoyable, even if it is heart-breaking and even awkward at times. The concept of this play, which runs without an interval, has a lot of potential and enables the audience to follow a life-long love story that just was not meant to be. The execution of the idea, however, leaves room for improvement.  Although the script opens up endless opportunities to explore the emotions, the history, and the potential future of the couple, it fails to follow through. Instead, the audience is confronted with three encounters, frozen in time. Leonard’s feelings for Violett are always right at the surface, well-displayed and portrayed by Joseph Ryan-Hughes. Each stage of his life, he is devoted to that girl, a little awkward when she is around and a little helpless in how to deal with these emotions. Violett, on the other hand, is more difficult to read, inconsistent, and confusing at times. Laura Mugford does a good job in transforming the character from a young and excited girl to a dignified woman, and finally into a widow that cannot leave the past behind. However, the character dynamic between the two of them is off. The mood swings throughout all three of the scenes always feels too abrupt, and pauses in the dialogue often feel a little unnatural. The script could have been more precise.

The direction of Connor McCrory makes up for what the script lacks. It is subtle and seems to play on the natural chemistry between Mugford and Ryan-Hughes. It also makes good use of the confined space the Baron’s Court Theatre provides.

Credit: Nick Payne

Eventually, I was rooting for the couple to reconcile. Yes, I am a hopeless romantic, and enjoyed following their story while hoping for the best.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

One Day When We Were Young is on at Barons Court Theatre until the 3rd of June – TICKETS AND INFO HERE!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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