According to the programme Tim Firth has been working on Sign of the Times on and off for twenty years so it's rather a shame there's so little to show for it at the end. Frank (Matthew Kelly) has been in charge of installing electric shop signs for a large company for most of his life, but dreams of being a thriller writer. He's given a work experience kid to look after, Alan (Gerard Kearns from Shameless) on the day he learns the company is relocating, and not taking him with it. Three years later Alan is a trainee manager at an electrical store and this time it's Frank who comes to him as part of a back-to-work scheme for the long-term unemployed. Ostensibly a comedy there's very few laughs (Firth only introduces a comic setpiece at the very end) and the idea of an older man having to apply for work doesn't feel fleshed out meaning there isn't really any social commentary to speak of either. The two actors do the best they can but this short play (under two hours, a big chunk of which is a lengthy interval to accomodate a big set change) doesn't have much for them to salvage. It might provide a reasonably entertaining evening at the sort of tiny studio space where it originated but the play feels lost on a West End stage.
Sign of the Times by Tim Firth is booking until the 28th of May at the Duchess Theatre (though if tonight's turnout is anything to go by I can't see it completing its run.)