The ability to surprise, enlighten, enliven and entertain is what live theatre is all about and Watford Palace continues to do all four on a regular basis. The latest play at the theatre, Jack Thorne’s 2nd May 1997 saw the stage transformed into a snug studio format with the audience flanking the actors so close you could practically feel the warmth of their breath on your face.

The set – a bed and scant props furthered this feeling of intimacy as we watched three pairs of players experience election night 1997 as though the events were unfolding for the first time.

Deposed Tory MP Robert (Geoffrey Beevers) is uncomfortably ill and increasingly deflated as he contemplates the end of his career while his wife Marie (Linda Broughton) comes to terms with having spent her entire life in a supporting role. Next up, come repressed Lib Dem Ian and drunken hanger-on Sarah, two strangers who end up together after a party. This remarkable scene sees Hugh Skinner and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in a sublime coupling of measured restraint and nervous abandon, respectively.

Lastly, we meet schoolboys Will (Jamie Samuel) and Jake (James Barrett) who are euphoric for different reasons, Jake is swotting for his politics exam, and Will is reeling from the night before when the friends shared a bed together while cheering in the Labour landslide.

As observered in the post-show q&a, the pieces are not overtly political but lean more towards the experiential, what changes might be made on a personal level while the government of the nation underwent a new beginning.

Comments from the audience ranged from: “It’s somewhere we’ve all been - it’s very beautifully done and also very intimate”, “I was riveted to every word; it was almost televisual, to the more political “there’s something wrong with our society that we can’t make more plays like this”.

All of these statements have my wholehearted agreement and I can only add the wish that Watford Palace Theatre’s association with nabokov continues and goes from strength to strength. 2nd May 1997 was commissioned by nabokov and directed by founder George Perrin. His vision and Jack Thorne’s utter mastery of the human drama are what make this play so surprising, so entertaining, utterly enlivening and a piece of theatrical enlightenment that deserves to run and run.

Melanie Dakin