by James Saunders

4–21 October 2007
New End Theatre

13–26 August 2007
Roman Eagle Lodge, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Winner of a FringeReview award for an outstanding theatre show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2007

When 19-year-old Hannah turns up unexpectedly at the remote Welsh cottage of middle-aged writer Harold, he can no longer hide from the truth. The daughter of his now deceased best friend, Hannah is part of the London past he is trying to bury. Newly returned from the hippie trail, she has sought him out with a very particular agenda. As night deepens, the whisky flows and old demons emerge.

Unfolding in real time over one act, this acclaimed, incisive and confrontational psychological drama is performed for the first time in 12 years. Gary Mackay and Alix Wilton Regan create a fresh and riveting chemistry, locking horns across the generation and gender gap.

Retreat was first presented at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond on 4 May 1995

Retreat 07 flyerRetreat publicity still


‘This play is a breath of fresh air – amongst all the gimmicky shows at the Festival this is a fantastic, truthful production. The script is both dark and witty, the performances subtle and intense, and the direction intelligent and sensitive. A taut psychological drama, ‘Retreat’ deals with the relationships and tragedies of two families. When Hannah turns up unannounced at Harold’s door, both characters are forced to deal with their memories and the pain associated with them. Their discomfort quickly tells the audience there is much more here than meets the eye.’

Deborah Klayman
Three Weeks (5/5)

‘I’m not going to reveal one word of the story that unfolds, through this excellent two-hander from the pen of James Saunders. The script is full of dark humour, the conversation between Hannah and Harold is partly an inquest, partly an interrogation, partly an attempt at resolution. It’s intense, it is beautifully paced, and it is refreshingly clear as a play. And it’s a story that shouldn’t be spoiled one bit in advance … the engaging and accessible script makes for a very compelling piece of drama. It’s a one-acter set just at the right pitch. And he covers the territory with sharp wit, excellent, simple stage directions, and atmospheric writing … The direction is faultless and the performers are first-class. Gary Mackay and Alix Wilton Regan are perfect foils for each other. The emotional intensity they bring to this piece is impressive, subtle and sharp. Tension mounts in all the right places, the “safe haven” of the Welsh cottage in which this play is set, becomes marvellously sinister as the play’s story unfolds. The “fragile community” that Harold refers to becomes all too real, as Hannah’s arrival disrupts his own fragile equilibrium … This is a real gem of a play, with wonderful psychological tension, humour, mystery out of which emerges a tale of regret, deceit and full-on performances from two very fine actors.’

Paul Levy
FringeReview (5 stars)

  • Harold
  • Gary Mackay
  • Hannah
  • Alix Wilton Regan
  • Voice of Debbie
  • Ellie Hale
  • Directed by
  • Sophie Lifschutz
  • Produced by
  • Crispin Harris
  • Technician
  • Simon Lovelace
  • Press
  • Kevin Wilson Public Relations