Sidney and the old girl,Eugene O’Hare, Park Theatre London (till 30th Nov 2019) 3***: Mark Courtice

Sydney & the Old Girl

Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP

020 7870 6876

31 Oct – 30 Nov 2019
Mon – Sat Evening 1930, Thu & Sat Matinees 15.00, no Matinee Thu 21 Nov

Audio Described: Sat 16 Nov 15.00
Touch tour 14.00

Writer: Eugene O’Hare

Director: Phillip Breen

Co-Designers: Max Jones and Ruth Hall

Lighting Designer: Tina Mac Hugh

Sound Designer I Dyfan Jones

Running time 2 hours 20 minutes including interval

A Nasty Piece of Work

O’Hare’s new play opens with Nell and her grown up son Sidney exchanging vicious insults. The invective is ugly, crude, and goes on for ages. And that is pretty much how the whole play turns out.

Sidney is looking after his mother in her dingy flat and the only chink in his gloom is the thought that he’ll inherit the flat and her money. She’s wheelchair bound and thinks she hasn’t long to live, her chink is a plan to ensure he doesn’t inherit. Kind and religious carer Marion attends to the old lady for a few hours a week while keeping a wary eye on Sidney.

For two hours Nell’s plot slowly unfolds. Throughout the tone of unremitting nastiness persists. O’Hare may be aiming for psychological grand guignol but for that the writing needs tightening up to create real tension.

Breen’s direction doesn’t help, mostly plonking Miriam Margolyes upstage centre. The set tells us little more about the people who live here. Lack of space on stage restricts any movement that might make things more interesting or complicated.

The performances can’t rescue things. Margolyes’s performance is powerful and physical despite the constraints of the wheelchair. She has a mobile face, capable of doing as much in a single diatribe as any amount of striding about. Vocally her snarl underlines the ferocity of her hatred but she has constantly to work in the same aggressive register. As Sidney, Mark Hadfield is perched uncomfortably between a comic turn in the manner of Young Steptoe and a broader version of a Pinter baddy. Vivien Parry as Marion seems a bit lost too. It’s somehow typical the plot demands she takes a step at the end that quite undoes a lot of her careful character work throughout the rest of the play.

Nell Stock I Miriam Margolyes

Sydney Stock I Mark Hadfield

Marion Fee | Vivien Parry

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