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Harper Regan

Tabard Theatre

Harper Regan

Harper Regan

Tabard Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd May 2019



“these actors ensure Stephens’ wordy script continues to punch above its weight”


Simon Stephens is one of the great contemporary British playwrights. By no stretch his best play, ‘Harper Regan’ remains a timely and touching work fully deserving of a revival eleven years after it first premiered at the National Theatre. Presented by Contentment Productions, set up to redress the balance towards 50:50 equal representation for female actors, and directed by Pollyanna Newcombe, this is a powerful female-led production that moves as much as it shocks.

Harper (Emmy Happisburgh) is on a journey to see her dying father one last time before he passes away. Abandoning her husband (Cameron Robertson), daughter (Bea Watson) and day job (under Philip Gill’s creepy manager), she flies from Uxbridge to Stockport, meeting 17-year-old Tobias (Joseph Langdon), drunken flirt Mickey Nestor (Marcus McManus) and her disappointed mother (Alma Reising) along the way. Harper’s is a story of renewal, self-discovery, and the power of the painful truth.

Leading the charge in practically every scene, Happisburgh is mesmerising as Harper, imbuing the character with a hint of Northern edge and dash of vulnerability in equal measure. Her energy and presence are matched by a strong ensemble, but McManus’ leering Mickey stands out as a compelling mix of Ryan Gosling and that creepy guy sat in the corner of Wetherspoons whistling at women (NB: maybe this is only something I’ve experienced…). Newcombe’s direction places emphasis on the relationships and conflicts between characters, and these are well handled by the cast. For me, Stephens script needs a bit of a trim, and the actors should feel free to roam a bit more – this production felt very still. That said, these actors ensure Stephens’ wordy script continues to punch above its weight.

The contemporary set of gauze flats and well-chosen location indicators keeps the production design simple but effective, and allows for some cool lighting transitions. Scene changes are expertly choreographed and often come as a gasp-inducing shock to the Tabard audience. Why can’t all scene changes in theatre be as interesting to watch as these?

A punchy drama of redemption, ‘Harper Regan’ is a real Northern Powerhouse of a play, and this is astounding work from a cast that will only get better as the run continues and they learn to sit more comfortably in their intriguing and nuanced characters.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Rob Youngson


Harper Regan

Tabard Theatre until 1st June


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Lady With a Dog | ★★★★ | March 2018
Sophie, Ben, and Other Problems | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sirens of the Silver Screen | ★★★ | June 2018
Sexy Laundry | ★★★ | November 2018
Carl’s Story | ★★★★ | March 2019


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Review of Turkey – 3.5 Stars



The Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 28th September 2017


⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2



“moments of true theatrical beauty”


Turkey is impossible to simplify; somewhere between a modern Hedda Gabler and Yerma, it retains all the qualities of the greatest stories ever told, with a distinctly modern perspective. Hilariously funny, Turkey presents a liberal love story with a twist, though it’s crash-cut ending leaves the audience desperate for the end of the story.

The narrative follows the story of Maddie and Toni, a young lesbian couple who are happily monogamous, living a normal life. There’s just one issue; Maddie wants a baby and Toni can’t give her one. The visceral story explores the issues of motherhood in more unusual concepts, exploring the lengths to which one is willing to go to reach the ultimate goal and the consequences of tunnel-vision. The dialogue is incredibly well written and super snappy, with some truly breathtaking moments of stillness, though the pacing sometimes seemed to be lost in the middle of scenes.

The acting is strong and solid; Harriet Green gives a natural and consistently strong performance and Cameron Robertson flickers between an older man, out of place in the world of the young couple and a youthful exuberance that controls the stage. Pevyand Sadeghian (Madeline) gives a fiery performance, but sometimes lacks the depth that could make the character more likeable.

The set is constructed from a series of boxes and hanging props, allowing the piece to flit between abstract proxemics and physicality and the daring realism of the script and performances; credit must go to Niall Phillips’ direction for streamlining these differences into a coherent and well-functioning whole that serves the story with specificity and style. The comedy is incredibly well-written, truly highlighting the more dramatic moments, but can sometimes make the characters feel a little archetypal.

For me, the plot felt a little too centred around a single event or concept, rather than following through a more developed story line, and I would love to see this piece expanded and developed to 90 minutes or more, with a clearer reason behind the narrative. Turkey is a solid piece of theatre, with an interesting and uncommon story and some moments of true theatrical beauty. I look forward to seeing the next steps of Frankie Meredith’s writing career and will be watching closely; this is certainly a jaw-dropping achievement for Meredith’s first full-length play and the entire team must be commended for creating an original yet classically soulful story.


Reviewed by Tasmine Airey




is at The Hope Theatre until 14th October



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