In a dumb show accompanied by rippling music, a woman at St Pancras station raises her hands to heaven and passionately hugs a piano player.

We later discover that this moment, when long-silent pianist Hattie publicly reconnects with her instrument, goes viral on Tik-Tok.

In between, John Bausor's minimalist set - a revolve with two pianos - rolls round and round in time-hopping loops to explore the relationship between two musical prodigies.

Ham & High: Sophie Thompson as Hattie in The Ballad of Hattie and JamesSophie Thompson as Hattie in The Ballad of Hattie and James (Image: Mark Senior)

Posh, quirky Hattie (Sophie Thompson) rocks up to a school production of Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde with a bottle of vodka and feminist ideas.

It's being staged by priggish, pompous James (Charles Edwards) and while you can't imagine them ever being friends - she calls him "forgettable" - they bond over a mutual love for music.

Moving between the 60s and 2030 playwright Samuel Adamson explores their jealousies, betrayals, arguments, and disappointments, and how an early tragic event - and the Patriarchy - shapes their lives.

Adamson's Wife - staged here in 2019 and revolving around Ibsen's The Doll's House - similarly explored queer lives and stymied female ambition, but in a richer, wittier way.

Ham & High: Sophie Thompson as HattieSophie Thompson as Hattie (Image: Mark Senior)

Here the sometimes dizzying time leaps underserve a play which can be dialogue-heavy with musical in-jokes that feel exclusive.

Ultimately how you feel about The Ballad of Hattie and James will lie in your response to the central pairing.

Required to play from six to 80 there's insufficient delineation between the ages so that he is mostly stiff and brittle, and she chaotically batty.

With Edwards doing too little, and Thompson too much, there's little charm or chemistry here.

The poignancy of Hattie's booze-sodden demise and descent into the musical wilderness is blunted because, instead of seeing her sparky, clever potential, we get a caricatured mouthy teen.

And James' patronising dismissal of female composers, and smug plagiarism isn't redeemed by his later vulnerability.

The on-stage pianist who performs the musical interludes goes some way to supply the emotional connection Hattie and James find in music, and Suzette Llewellyn offers a commendably professional, empathetic study of a quartet of supporting characters.

The Ballad of Hattie and James runs at Kiln Theatre Kilburn until May 18.