Callum Dixon as Dave in Between Us at the Arcola Theatre
Callum Dixon as Dave in Between Us at the Arcola Theatre. Photograph: Jeremy Abrahams

Julia is a therapist, moonlighting as a stand-up comedian, who has recently made contact with the daughter she gave up for adoption many years ago. Dave, her client, has come to see her since the birth of his daughter triggered a depression. Teresa, another client, is a wealthy woman struggling to cope with caring for the two children with behavioural difficulties she recently adopted.
 
For her latest work, Sarah Daniels is confronting the audience. Her play opens with Julia, played by Charlotte Cornwell, in the role of stand-up, addressing us, the ‘Guardian-reading’ theatregoers, here in Hackney E8. We are all included in this evening’s critique, which is: ‘What price does society pay to allow the middle classes to feel good about themselves?’ 
 
The suggestion is that Teresa (Georgina Rich) and Dave (Callum Dixon) are using therapy to feel good about themselves despite the ethically dubious choices they have made. But while the question may be a valid one, this play this feels like an over simplification of the issue. While it promises to ask ‘how have we come to this?’ this question is not really answered, and both Teresa and Dave have something of a plausibility problem. The motivations for Teresa’s behaviour and her relationship with her husband are not properly examined, and her story feels unreal. It also asks too much of the imagination to believe that Dave, a cockney builder, was ever a public school ‘posh boy’, and his behaviour when bumping into his therapist in a bar feels unlikely. 
 
The scenes involving Julia and her daughter Kath are the most moving. Having boldly declared to begin with that inequality is a thing of the past, the many inequalities in Julia’s relationship with her daughter are painful to witness – she craves a relationship with her, but her feelings are not returned in equal measure, and she tries to use her wealth to buy time with her. Her heartache in these scenes is palpable.
 
Between Us includes many brilliantly observed details. On learning that her daughter is a hairdresser Julia asks “and you want to be…?”  – “A hairdresser,” Kath replies. But some of the references to societal inequalities seem artificial and inserted, and the snobbery of Julia and Teresa at times too open to be convincingly English.
 
Between Us is funny, well-acted and always compelling. Some may find its message challenging and important, others may find it unsubtle and didactic. But it is certainly engaging.

Between Us is at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL, until 21 June

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