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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
Hand in Hand
by Lizzie Loveridge

Am I the one or am I merely Don's next one?  
-- Cass

 Hand in Hand
Rebecca Egan as Cass, Tilly Blackwood as Lou, Sarah Alexander as Helen
(Photo: John Haynes)

Hand in Hand is a new play by Simon Block which has been specially commissioned by Hampstead Theatre. It is initially set in 1999 in Hampstead with much of the action taking place in Parliament Hill Fields, a local greenspace that overlooks London. Its main themes are the search for the right relationship and the predictive certainty as to whether it will last and the position of Jewish children as the inheritors of their culture and attitudes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The starting point is the arrival back in London from several years in Israel of Jewish, thirty-something Ronnie (Ben Miles). He finds his best friend , gentile Dan (Guy Lankester), about to cement a relationship with his sister Cass (Rebecca Egan) Cass, uncertain about moving forward seeks advice from her married friend Lou (Tilly Blackwood) and her icy and single boss Helen (Sarah Alexander).

Ronnie is in conflict with his never seen parents, who have worked hard in their tailoring business to give him a good education and an opportunity (he has wasted) to do post graduate research in Israel.. Ronnie relationship with a Palestinian woman has also ended unhappily.

Block's gift is for well written dialogue which compels his audience to get involved. He also can produce great comedic wit as evident in the acid altercations between the warring husband and wife, Lou and Doug (Simon Coates) and the discussions about fathering between Dan and Doug. I would argue with the credibility of the subplot where Cass's boss, Helen, acts as an "agent provocateur", trying to seduce Dan as a test of his fidelity to Cass.

Hand in Hand sympathetically raises the concerns of the older generation without putting the parents onstage to speak for themselves. We hear complaints from Ronnie as to the version of history he was given by his parents and about how they want to be proud of him, but his sister Cass more gently puts the other side of the picture. The conspiracy of silence in families is shown as they try to protect each other from bad news,

Rebecca Egan, Guy Lankester and Ben Miles effectively portray sincere and essentially likeable characters. Sarah Alexander was less satisfying and unconvincing as Lesbian Helen, Gemma Bodinetz directs intelligently. In the end, the play offers no solutions to the global problem but Cass's realisation that you have to take risks provides a closure on the smaller of issues.
Hand in Hand
Written by Simon Block
Directed by Gemma Bodinetz

With: Sarah Alexander, Tilly Blackwood, Simon Coates, Rebecca Egan, Guy Lankester, Ben Miles.
Design: Soutra Gilmour
Lighting Design: Tim Mitchell
Sound design: Olly Fox
Running time: Two hours twenty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
Booking to 8th March 2002
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st February 2002 performance at the Hampstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage London NW3
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