They met at the theatre; the play is irrelevant. Michael, the doctor of quantum physics at Imperial College London and expert in lasers and buckyballs, and James, the struggling actor from Ireland who used to take the early morning Ryanair flight to audition in London, hoping for a break which finally came, but his greater luck was that chance meeting.
Less fortunate was his illness; quantum physics the realm of the small, at first it was small things, a loss of coordination, dropping a prop in an audition, then collapsing, fully and repeatedly; another doctor diagnosed motor neuron disease, degenerative, incurable. Michael stayed by his side until the end but couldn’t let go, looking for his lost husband across different universes.
The Silver Bell written by Alan Flanagan who also plays Michael alongside Brendan O’ Rourke who plays James, the couple are amiable, endearing and honest, bickering about the details of the life they shared together, their families, their eccentric landlady Renee, James understandably angry and resentful as he feels his career and future slip away, Michael the scientist infuriatingly calm as he compartmentalises his feelings in order to cope.
The science fiction element largely glossed over but crucial, the details are less important than the result, Michael believing that a multiverse exists where all possibilities are happening and in one he will find James alive and well, but jumping between worlds he has no way of knowing whether he is getting closer to his goal or farther from where he is supposed to be.
Opening doors to worlds he names “Tesco everywhere,” “Margaret Thatcher” (shudder) and “white Hamilton,” each time finding an iteration of James who disappoints, Goldilocks looking for the perfect porridge, The Silver Bell is hilarious and heartbreaking, a beautifully written and performed observation of the acceptance of loss, imperfection and the inevitable and a celebration of love so strong it stretches across dimensions.
The Silver Bell runs at Pleasance Courtyard until Sunday 28th August