Abbey Theatre, St Albans, serves up a bijou treat

PUBLISHED: 11:13 28 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

ANYONE who spent an hour last week at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans watching a one-act play by Eugene O Neill was guaranteed an interesting evening. Not only was it the first time the play, Hughie, has been performed in Britain for 30 years but it was al

ANYONE who spent an hour last week at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans watching a one-act play by Eugene O'Neill was guaranteed an interesting evening.

Not only was it the first time the play, Hughie, has been performed in Britain for 30 years but it was also a very compelling production by Irrational Theatre.

Hughie, which actually runs for less than an hour, was planned as one of a group of one-act plays by the author of The Iceman Cometh and Mourning Becomes Electra but was the only one to be completed.

A two-hander, it is set in a seedy hotel in New York in the late 1920s where, in the early hours of the morning, the protagonist Erie Smith, played by Keith Davey, is talking to the new night clerk about his relationship with his predecessor, the eponymous Hughie.

But it soon becomes clear that while Erie, a small-time gambler, believes he has brought much needed colour to Hughie's life, it was a mutual dependency which Erie sorely misses.

And while the new night clerk, played by Lew Hodges, politely listens to Erie in between drifting off, it is not until the end that a relationship starts to form between the two men with the potential to become just as meaningful.

Hughie is a thought-provoking play about loneliness and fantasy and how just a little spark can lead to better things.

Keith Davey, who local theatregoers will know from the Company of Ten with whom he has been a regular performer, gives a terrific performance as Erie and maintains a respectable New York accent throughout.

By word and intonation he gets fully into the character of a man whose life has become more wretched since Hughie's death but who always has hope that better times are round the corner.

Lew Hodges, who stands behind his reception desk for practically an hour, has little to say but gives a contained and mesmeric performance, sometimes so still that he barely moves and other times showing the restlessness of someone trapped in a situation they would rather not be in.

Hughie was a bijou production by any standard but well worth seeing. It was directed by Gerard Salih and Paula Chitty was the producer and designer.


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