MRS REYNOLDS AND THE RUFFIAN
by Gary Owen.
Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ To 8 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat 28 April, 1, 6, 8 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 1 May 2.30pm.
Captioned 5 May.
Post-show Discussion 27 April.
TICKETS: 01923 225671.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 April.
From mutual hate to mutual help.
It starts with the easy stuff: hulking teenage lout versus neatly turned-out old lady whose garden he’s vandalised, with a side-order of earnest Restorative Justice worker. And at first the devil has all the best lines, as Jay threatens Anna Reynolds behind Cassie’s back when he’s supposed to be understanding how he’s made her suffer.
Officialdom seems uninterested so long as another case gets offloaded. Yet Cassie wags a sternly admonitory biro at Jay when Mrs Reynolds isn’t around. And the threat of prison quells Jay, even if it doesn’t make him civil.
Next comes the slightly less easy stuff. Apparently willing to damage anything regardless of people’s feelings, Jay says he’ll protect anyone he loves. What becomes predictably clear by the halfway point is that no-one loves him.
Mrs Reynolds learns to spar back verbally and, using her power to give him a bad report, has him planting flowers and clearing graffiti along the street. And here’s the tough part for playwright Gary Owen, who’s now treading the soft territory of an ‘odd couple’ moving from hostility (so easy) to reconcilement (so easily a sentimental quicksand mush).
But matters hold firm here through the old lady’s demand he help her in her own extreme situation – something that means losing the mother-figure he’s coming to find a stabilising influence. Life’s complex when you start to care; new neighbour Mel seems to offer love, but has a reputation. Soon, Jay’s anger has nothing to do but melt away in the heat of frustration.
Morgan Watkins’ tall, hulking Jay never loses sympathy, even when threatening or, later, provoking laughter as he relays Mrs R’s advice on bedding flowers with all the wisdom of long experience. And, with her reputation for thinking she owns the street, Trudie Goodwin’s Mrs Reynolds is more than a pursed-lip prude, showing a calm ability to direct situations once her initial anger’s expired.
With good supporting performances, and a rubbish-tip set from Ruari Murchison (Dominic Martin providing instant graffiti writing and removal), Brigid Larmour’s production catches each aspect of Owen’s characters, moving the action pacily yet unhurriedly along.
Mrs Reynolds: Trudie Goodwin.
Cassie: Annie Hemingway.
Mel: Suzie McGrath.
Keiran: Ricci McLeod.
Jay: Morgan Watkins.
Director: Brigid Larmour.
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Mark Jonathan.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Audio-visual Designer Dominic Martin.