R And D by Simon Vinnicombe, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 1 October 2016

I really liked this short play downstairs at the Hampstead. Janie found the subject matter rather too weird and felt she couldn’t relate to it.

The central characters are two brothers; one a writer, bereaved just under a year before the start of the play, the other a geeky scientist whose company is secretly developing a world-beating sentient, anthropomorphic robot, in the form of a rather attractive and spirited young woman. Take it from there.

I liked the drama of it and also the ethical dilemmas that got an airing through the story. It’s a short play, perhaps 75 minutes. It was very well acted.

There is an excellent stub with all the information you might want about the play and production – here.

No formal reviews at Hampstead Downstairs, but the audience shout outs on the above stub are very positive.

Janie was that set against it but she sees the idea of sentient anthropomorphic robots as being way too futuristic. Personally, I think we’re getting mighty close to such technology – perhaps within 10 years; certainly our lifetimes, unless our lives are cut short.

Anyway, Janie was mollified by some excellent Chinese food from Four Seasons afterwards, so all was not lost for her as an evening, not by any stretch.

Alligators by Andrew Keatley, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 16 July 2016

By gosh this is one powerful play, with this production proving once again that the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs is one of the hottest locations in London at the moment for showcasing modern plays and emerging talent.

This one all-but caused a domestic between me and Janie. Yes, we both agreed what a good play it was. But our take diverged on the moral dilemmas therein and the extent to which the protagonist was to some extent the architect of his own misfortune as well as the subject of great sympathy.

The plot is simple enough; the protagonist, Daniel (played extremely well by Alec Newman) is a teacher, falsely accused of sex offences by a delusional former pupil, years after the alleged offences.

The complexity comes from Daniel’s less-than-exemplary interactions with the troubled schoolgirl at the time, his with-holding of some of the relevant contextual information from the police when first questioned and his troubling interest in internet porn of the kind that bears a creepy resemblance to the alleged offences.

Janie and I debated our divergent takes on this play to some extent during the interval and more vociferously on the way home in the comfort of our own vehicle. Frankly, I think we were both somewhat in shock.

While Janie and I were personally reconciled by the time we got home and started tucking in to our shawarma supper, we only realised the next morning when we rose to prepare for a day at Lord’s, that we had rapidly polished off a tasty bottle of Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz in double-quick time, which left us both a little sore-headed until the fresh air of Lord’s started to weave its magic on our fevered brows.

As well as Alec Newman, Susan Stanley as Daniel’s unquestionably sympathy-deserving wife, Sally, was an absolute standout in a generally very good cast and production. The full works Hampstead production details can be found on the theatre’s archive – here.

We saw the last night of the run at the Hampstead, but this production really deserves a tour and/or transfer so here’s hoping it will return/run elsewhere.

Recommendations: yes, do see this play if you possibly can. No, don’t fall out over it; the dilemmas are meant to leave you feeling confused, cognitively dissonant and angry. No, don’t knock back a whole bottle of strong wine between two of you afterwards in a vain attempt to make your whirling brain feel better; doesn’t work.