Midnight Cabbie Faces Up To His Past

Penny Flood reviews 'Bluebird' At the Tabard Theatre

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This is a terrific play with a great pedigree. Written by Simon Stephens who also wrote the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, it premiered at the Royal Court Theatre last year. This latest version has a smashing cast, faultlessly directed by Amanda Root and we’re lucky to have it at The Tabard.

Penny Flood reviews 'Bluebird' At the Tabard Theatre

Pic - Andreas Grieger

A haunting and very human story, it’s about Jimmy, a mild mannered cabbie who drives his minicab, a Nissan Bluebird, around London at night. He’s played by Malcolm Freeman, as a pleasant, decent bloke who says he works nights because he enjoys it. In a previous life he was a successful writer but a nasty bout of writer's block ruined his career, so he drives a cab, but writer's block is just the tip of Jimmy’s iceberg.

The fares, who pile in and out of his cab, are a random selection of night people: the drunk, the despairing, the desperate, and the deranged along with the lonely, the lovers, the bigots, and some quite normal folk on their way to work. My favourite was the TfL engineer with a degree in philosophy from the OU. All human life, it seems, passes through a minicab office at night with Jimmy as an oasis of calm, dispensing sympathy, comments and common sense.

Midnight Cabbie Faces Up To His Past

Pic - Andreas Grieger

But nothing with Jimmy is as it seems, there’s an air of mystery about him, he might be calm on the surface, but there’s something disturbing underneath. There are hints along the way, for example he says he lives in Bluebird Mansions in Hammersmith and it’s no coincidence that he drives a Bluebird, and occasionally he talks about himself as he chats to passengers. This way we learn that something awful happened five years ago, but the details are sketchy. The intrigue grows as, between fares, Jimmy tries to call his wife. He hasn’t had any contact with her for five years but today’s a special day and it’s bothering him and he’s got a present for her.

There’s a lot of gentle humour in the first act so the second act comes as a bit of a shock as everything changes. Now Jimmy’s passenger is his ex-wife Claire, played by Selina Giles, and we learn the truth about Jimmy and what makes him tick. His story is darker and more tragic than any of the stories he hears in his cab. Things come to a head as Jimmy and Claire face up to their shared past and this special day leading to an end of almost unbearable sorrow and heartbreak. The present he has for her makes it clear just how damaged Jimmy is by his past. It could have been so different but there’s no going back, the past is the past and it can’t be changed. Life goes on and Jimmy is left to get back into his cab to look for another fare.

It’s great stuff and definitely worth the trip to Turnham Green Terrace.

Tickets £17/£15

Book online or 08448 472264

Penny Flood

May 17, 2015