Four people sit in a cafe set for the play Time and Tide

How life and love can push us forward and hold us back is at the heart of this tragi-comic drama set in a Cromer cafe.

Time and Tide tells the story of teenager Nemo (Josh Barrow), who is set to leave for London to study drama and his best friend Daz (Ismel Bridgeman), who is less keen on the idea.

Mixed in are the dilemmas facing May (Erin Geraghty) – owner of the cafe they both work in – and her bread supplier Ken (Paul Lavers), whether to flee or fight the onslaught of chain operators.

James McDermott’s script is inspired by some of his own experiences working in a cafe in Holt, although we can only hope for the sake of his customers there was better food hygiene in the real-life version.

A young man stands behind a cafe counter on the set of the play Time and Tide
Josh Barrow as Nemo in Time and Tide. Photo: Sarah Rigby.

The stories of gamble, risk and regret that swirl around the set are well told though, and we quickly find ourselves sympathising with the characters and hoping for happy resolutions.

The script is also peppered with some great jokes, both verbal and physical, and multi-layered metaphor that mostly manages to show its hand without slapping us about the face.

Barrow’s performance is the centre of this tight-knit show. I worried at first that we would be getting a rather cliched gay teen, but we get more nuance and depth as the play settles down. There is less subtlety from Bridgeman, but partly because the script gives him less to work with.

Geraghty is warm and engaging as proxy parent May, though her Norfolk accent does wander a little. No such issue for Lavers (still fondly remembered locally for his time as Anglia TV’s Mr Midnight) who reminds of his stage pedigree with a light and charming comic performance.

Three people stand in a cafe set for the play Time and Tide
May (Erin Geraghty), Daz (Ishmel Bridgerman), and Ken (Paul Lavers) in Time and Tide. Photo: Sarah Rigby.

Director Rob Ellis keeps things pacey, with good use made of Caitlin Abbott’s compact set.

It’s an engaging and emotional tale, and one we can all empathise with: the high and low tides of love and desire, and whether or not to dip our toes in the water – unsure if we’ll sink or swim.

  • Time and Tide is on tour across East Anglia: Mercury Colchester, October 1; Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, October 4-5; The Seagull, Lowestoft, October 6; Sheringham Little Theatre, October 7-8; Wells Maltings, October 10; The Corn Hall, Diss, October 11; St Georges Theatre, Great Yarmouth, October 12; The Carnegie, Thetford, October 13; Fisher Theatre, Bungay, October 14; Norwich Theatre Stage Two, October 18-23.