Jacques de Silva and Ameera Patel, pic by Natasha Brown
Director: Frances Slabolepszy

Cast: Ameera Patel and Jaques de Silva

Venue: Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter, until January 7

Rating: 4


As the title connotes speed, superficial acquaintance and travel, a brief pause in a rapid transition through time and space.
That is exactly what happens when a man and a woman, perfect strangers, encounter one another randomly and experience the thrill and uncertainty of attraction. The contrast between the lame opening gambits of their conversation and the violent intensity of their unspoken feelings and urges is instantly recognisable, a source of spontaneous mirth to those not involved in the drama.

This well-crafted production calls for an intimate venue, and the Golden Arrow Studio is the ideal setting for the couple's turbulent interaction, which is deftly directed by Slabolepszy.
It starts innocuously with a woman seated on a public bench reading, or pretending to read House and Garden while her eyes furtively scan the horizon for talent. Along comes talent in the form of a personable man who circles the bench with the nonchalance of an alley cat scouting the neighbourhood. After some initial hesitancy, eye contact is made.

And the skirmish between the sexes, as old as time itself, begins.
Lies abound: neither admits to smoking, he invents a nonexistent wife, she pretends a passion for cheese, and between them they generate a massive fantasy out of almost nothing. For him, a lump of her discarded chewing gum evokes a rosy future of marriage, children and growing old together. they argue intensely over the fate of a bird, and there is no lack of irritants in the way of mutual attraction.
He loathes her whistling and personal fragrance, she thinks he looks like a chicken complete with beak and feathers.
But there is that persistent thing called desire, so neither wants the moment to end, especially when hand-contact is made and each weaves a warm fantasy around the pleasure it gives. As their encounter unfolds, the bench is maneuvered around the stage with increasing vigour and ingenuity as the focal point of their highly physical interaction.
Patel and de Sliva are blessed with hugely expressive faces, especially with regard to their eyes; even without Whistle Stop's clever script to promote understanding of the play, they are wordlessly eloquent, the chemistry between them palpable.
This is a splendid piece of theatre, vastly entertaining and offering a wryly intelligent comment on male/female relationships.