IVY & JOAN
by James Hogan.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1 6ST To 24 January 2015.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
Review: William Russell 10 January.
Women in crisis skilfully revealed.
James Hogan’s two short plays, directed by Anthony Biggs, provide splendid roles for an actress, and the chances offered are seized with relish and great skill by Lynne Miller.
Ivy is a barmaid, middle-aged, sacked by the owners of the hotel in which she has spent most of her working life because she no longer fits the image they wish to present. She is sitting in the staff room with Victor, an elderly, slightly fey waiter, there to see she leaves without causing a fuss.
He is doing his betting slips, she complains about the girl who is replacing her, demands to know where the saucer of her bone china teacup has gone, and says she will be getting married to Harry, once the head-waiter, who has gone to work on cruise ships.
She is a tough old bird, but vulnerable underneath the surface gutsiness, and marrying Harry is a fantasy He ditched her years before. Miller creates the kind of barmaid customers enjoy, one who takes no prisoner, slowly revealing the ageing, insecure woman inside the shell.
In the second play she is Joan, a woman suffering from mental problems who has gone on holiday to Venice with her long-suffering husband Eric, ostensibly to paint but also as part of trying to persuade her to seek the psychiatric help she needs.
They have finished dinner – the sideboard of the room with its fine china ornaments sums the couple up perfectly – and Eric is trying to get some sense out of her memories of the holiday and the ageing gigolo who picked her up, whom she insists on seeing as a young man of culture showing her the real Venice.
In the end one of them escapes. Miller makes Joan sad, irritating and pitiful. In both plays Miller gets admirable support from Jack Klaff as Victor, the waiter far more worried he too might be for the chop than about what has happened to Ivy, and Eric, who is just about at the end of his tether in a marriage which has gone tragically off the rails.
Ivy/Joan: Lynne Miller.
Victor/Eric: Jack Klaff.
Director: Anthony Biggs.
Designer: Victoria Johnstone.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Sound: Gareth McLeod.