“The Silver Bell” at the Vault Festival

Alan Flanagan’s hour-long two-hander is easy to recommend. The play is funny and heartfelt, while the polished direction from Dan Hutton leads to enjoyable performances from Brendan O’Rourke and Flanagan himself.

A love affair between Mico and James gets a lot of laughs. From the start, Flanagan and O’Rouke make this pleasingly unlikely couple endearing. One is an actor, the other a scientist, and their squabbles are sweet. There is impressive detail in the writing and an air of frank, disarming honesty.

That what we see is the re-enactment of their romance adds charm and intrigue (Mico’s nerves and notebook are lovely touches). As things become serious, with James’ death from motor neurone disease, the play tugs at heartstrings in an effective but impressively unsentimental fashion. Flanagan’s understated performance is excellent.

Next comes some sci-fi. Mico’s research becomes real as he jumps to different universes to find his partner again. There are light touches along the way and O’Rourke gets to shine as different versions of his character. The action is tight, and Amy Hill’s lighting design is, like the script, nice and neat.

The James from another universe (who has an offstage Mico of his own) can see what’s really going on. But Mico needs to work out that telling – rather than trying to repeat – his story is the important thing. Against the odds, the play becomes celebration of love, however painful, and a thought-provoking piece about grief that lingers in the memory.

Until 12 February 2023