Tag Archives: Eugene O’Hare

Sydney & The Old Girl

★★★★

Park Theatre

Sydney & The Old Girl

Sydney & The Old Girl

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 5th November 2019

★★★★

 

“a powerful, funny and uncomfortable watch”

 

Sydney & the Old Girl is one of two debut full-length plays by Irish playwright Eugene O’Hare. Directed by Phillip Breen, the play spotlights the miserable lives of the elderly Nell Stock (Miriam Margoyles) and her son Sydney (Mark Hadfield). Sydney, who has moved back into the family home temporarily, blames his mother for the death of his younger brother Bernie and Nell admits bluntly that her son “creeps her out”. Nell’s cheery Irish carer Marion Fee (Vivien Parry) is caught in the middle of the pair, acting as a trump card for Nell to laud over her son and an object of romantic obsession for Sydney. The trio are all making careful steps towards coming out on top whether that financially, morally or purely to spite one another.

Nell and Sydney are both unreliable narrators and offer a consistently conflicting series of events. There initially appears to be nothing more than blind hatred between them but there are suggestions of something more complex: a dysfunctional co-dependency brought about through grief. The pair insulting one another does unfortunately often take precedence over exploring their relationship any deeper.

Margoyles shines throughout the performance. The audience will quickly forget that it is the famous thespian before them and be wholeheartedly convinced that she is in fact Nell. For example, Nell, confined to a wheelchair for most of the play, walks gingerly at the end of the performance. This elicited gasps from the audience who presumably forgot that Margoyles herself can walk just fine.

Hadfield is perfectly odd for the role of Sydney and he exudes an aura of tragic loneliness. He is decidedly unpleasant but, as with his relationship with Nell, it would be good if he had some more tender moments. There is a slither of sympathy for Nell implanted in the audience, but Sydney is not so complexly presented. As a plot point, it is a shame to see the all too familiar trope of a man fixating on a woman who he feels that he can open up to emotionally. Though this undoubtedly contributes to Sydney’s creepiness, it is thoroughly predictable.

Parry is a natural on stage and her first appearance bustling into Nell’s house is a particularly strong scene. Her development in the second half is unexpected which is a credit to Parry’s non-assuming nature. Marion also provides a much-needed break from the tension between warring mother and son.

The set (Max Jones and Ruth Hall) is wonderfully intimate creating a sense that the audience is privy to these awkward family exchanges. The audience looks onto a dated living room with a floral carpet and dark panelled walls with a front door on the right-hand side. An alcohol cabinet, a broken television set, an armchair and a small dining table fill the space. A small kitchen occupies the back left of the stage and a hallway leads off to the rest of the house. The space is used well, and the cast move around it confidently.

The lighting (Tina Mac Hugh) is excellent. The cold light of the early morning floods the set and the stage darkens gradually as night approaches. The flashing sirens of ambulances are also mimicked convincingly. There is a rather gratuitous projection show at the production’s end that would have perhaps worked better as a means of breaking up the performance mid-way rather than stand out so unnaturally at its finale.

Sydney & the Old Girl is a powerful, funny and uncomfortable watch. The acting is sublime, but a more nuanced exploration of the play’s characters and their relationships would be gladly welcomed.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Pete Le May

 


Sydney & The Old Girl

Park Theatre until 30th November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | April 2019
Intra Muros | | April 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | June 2019
Summer Rolls | ★★★½ | June 2019
The Time Of Our Lies | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Weatherman | ★★★ | August 2019
Black Chiffon | ★★★★ | September 2019
Mother Of Him | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Fast | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Weatherman

★★★

Park Theatre

The Weatherman

The Weatherman

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 21st August 2019

★★★

 

“Niamh James, fresh out of drama school, does a terrific job in making Mara a real, living presence on stage”

 

The Park nails its colours to the mast immediately concerning the content of this play. On each seat is an A5 sheet of paper; on one side, MODERN SLAVERY AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN THE UK/SPOTTING THE SIGNS, and on the other, WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP, detailing how to report it, and the logos of eleven organisations that work to support victims and to end this horrific practice. Similarly, in the director’s note, just after the title page of the script, which all reviewers were kindly given at this performance, Alice Hamilton devotes one paragraph out of five to the statistics of global human trafficking – ‘a recent reckoning produced an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, of whom 10.1 million are children trapped in forced labour or sexual exploitation’.

This is what Eugene O’Hare has chosen to write a play about, and yet, in this play (running time two hours twenty minutes including interval), we see and hear four middle-aged men talk – frequently at length; O’Hare is fond of a long monologue – and talk and talk, whilst a teenage girl, introduced on page 35 of a 75 page script, remains mute throughout. We know she is Romanian, and that her name is Mara, but her thoughts, feelings and experiences do not exist. Niamh James, fresh out of drama school, does a terrific job in making Mara a real, living presence on stage, but it is unbelievable that in 2019, a male playwright can feel that the best way of exploring this subject is to present the only woman on stage as a passive, representative victim, whilst the men around her invite us to laugh with them and feel their fears and their personal pain. If the Bechdel test was conducted with a thermometer, the mercury would boil and the glass explode.

There is some stellar acting on display in this production. There isn’t a weak link in the five-strong cast, and Alec Newman, as the tortured (yes, have a think about that for a second) O’Rourke and David Schaal, as the terrifying Dollar, in particular, give bravura performances. There is a lot for the actors to get their teeth into; O’Hare relishes male language, whether it be quickfire banter, gangland menace or sentimental pissed-up musings. There’s no doubt that these have their charms. There are some good gags in this piece (alongside some more questionable ones) and Dollar’s nastiness is palpable, but added up, and in the light of the subject matter, it just all seems rather indulgent. The register of language is also uneven, both tonally, and in terms of time period. Dollar appears to have walked straight in from the 1950s East End of the Krays, whilst the other four characters are firmly rooted in the present (though does anyone now use the anachronistic ‘water closet’?)

James Perkins’ design works very well – it was a terrific creative touch for the outside of the stairs to visually echo the outside of a shipping container – and Alice Hamilton’s direction is steady and assured, but there simply is no getting past the blatant erasure of the female voice here. Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows’; it’s clear that Eugene O’Hare’s Weatherman hasn’t got the faintest idea.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Piers Foley

 


The Weatherman

Park Theatre until  14th September

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
Cry Havoc | ★★ | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | April 2019
Intra Muros | | April 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | June 2019
Summer Rolls | ★★★½ | June 2019
The Time Of Our Lies | ★★★★ | August 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews