There are two interesting throughlines in Past Tense. It is mainly concerned with Terry’s predicament as a young woman stuck in a rut, but it is also about her relationship with the narrator of her life story. The play therefore consists of a real life dimension as well as a metaphysical realm, but they are not kept distinct. The Narrator is allowed to interact with Terry and her friends, and through this anomaly, a lot of colour is added to the simple story. The show also attempts to introduce a sense of Brechtian distanciation with the idea of a materialised Narrator, although it is unclear whether creating that effect serves much purpose in this instance.
The players are encouraged to perform their comedy broadly, and their approach comes across more akin to the work of comedians rather than actors. Their main intention for the audience is one of effect, rather than empathy or affiliation. This means that the production is able to deliver lots of laughs, but we are unable to connect with the story’s central character satisfactorily. The biggest laughs are for David Reynolds who plays Rich. He has a keen sense of timing, and attacks his funny moments with gusto and conviction. He is there to deliver hilarity, and he is single-minded about it. Joshua McInnes as the Narrator is a good fit. The young actor has an innate sense of formality that is perfectly utilised. He portrays a character that is somberly rigid yet agile, and the show relies on his focus to keep the plot on track.
Along with the Narrator, a musician is on stage through the duration. Mark Conroy underscores the action and provides a few delightful incidental songs, which add to the joviality of the proceedings. Past Tense has a story to tell, and that story is used as a vehicle for entertainment and laughter. The show’s reverberations fade quickly after the performers have taken their bows, but it is great fun while it lasts.