Review: The Gap

Written by on February 15, 2024

The Gap

Review: The Gap

Jamie Griffiths: Hope Mill Theatre 14-02-24

Given the calibre of the writing talent, I went to see The Gap with high expectations, especially given Jim Cartwright’s previous success with heart-warming northern dramas and duologues. In this production, directed by Anthony Banks, our two protagonists are unlikely friends Corral and Walter (Denise Welch and Matthew Kelly), and for an hour and twenty minutes we travel through numerous decades, experiencing their highs and lows, and a multitude of gaps.

The first half is literally “a forever waltz in a sixties wonderland” and we fly through the decade at a breakneck speed, which cleverly reflects this reckless, out of control chapter in Corral and Walter’s lives. She’s a sex worker and he’s her assistant, maid, manager, platonic friend and total rock.  Together they stagger through London society in an almost Forrest Gump style, encountering everyone from Francis Bacon to the Krays and the Beatles.

Denise Welch as Corral, credit Pamela Raith

In the second half we move through time at quite a pace, and just like Walter and Corral we are left longing for the carefree simplicity enjoyed in the sixties. Real life gets in the way and our characters lives take turns for the worst, The Gap between them for most of the second act is a yawning great chasm, and they are both the worse for it.

The Gap benefits from effective, beautiful and simplistic staging. Andrzej Goulding’s set design is incredibly well judged, with a nice fusion of colour and projection, complemented with a great soundtrack that uses everyone from Petula Clark to the Spice Girls to set the scene.

Denise Welch as Corral & Matthew Kelly as Walter, credit Pamela Raith

The chemistry between Matthew Kelly and Denise Welch is something to behold, with their lines effortlessly volleyed back and forth across the stage. It was no surprise to see the occasional pause in proceedings as the audience burst into rapturous applause, and Denise has an incredible command of her character. Hope Mill is an incredibly intimate space and Denise takes full advantage of this intimacy, knowing that the audience will see every subtle glance to her unresponsive waiter as she reclines by a Maltese pool in one of her loneliest moments. It’s very Shirley Valentine.   

Denise Welch as Corral & Matthew Kelly as Walter, credit Pamela Raith

There’s a moment toward the end where Matthew Kelly delivers a really gutwrenching gearchange in performance and you could sense the whole audience is hit by the power of his devastation.  I felt very privileged indeed to have spent an evening in the company of these two northern treasures.

The Gap is at Hope Mill Theatre until 16th March – get your tickets from the official site HERE.

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