Tag Archives: Jennifer Daley

Big Big Sky

Big Big Sky


Hampstead Theatre

Big Big Sky

Big Big Sky

Hampstead Theatre

Reviewed – 7th August 2021



“draws us into the big big hearts of these characters in a beautifully low-key way”


There is a moment in Tom Wells’ “Big Big Sky” where Angie, the café owner, talks of once sighting an albatross gliding across the Yorkshire shoreline. Nobody believed her. “You should have taken a photograph” she is told; which she rebuffs by explaining she would rather have just experienced the moment. The sentiment personifies the play that, in our Instagram age, rolls into our hearts like a breath of fresh air.

This burst of fresh air sweeps in from the North Sea onto the remote hamlet of Kilnsea on the Yorkshire coast. It is always closing time here. The café is closing in each scene, perhaps for good this time. The summer season is over, and as the long winter months beckon, even the way of life is tottering on the brink of extinction. But the café is a haven of hope, of tea and sympathy. Run by Angie (Jennifer Daley), helped by the younger Lauren (Jessica Jolleys), the clientele has flown south – along with the local bird population. Lauren’s father Dennis (Matt Sutton) has a habit of turning up for his freebie supper just as the ‘café open’ sign is dragged inside each evening. It is a cosy ritual, the cloak of which sometimes slips from the shoulder to reveal the bruises born of sadness and grief.

In walks Ed, an enthusiastic conservationist and ecologist, driven to this backwater for a job interview. Today he would be labelled as being ‘on the spectrum’, but in this timeless setting he is merely awkward; initially shy. A vegan geek, Sam Newton effortlessly makes his character loveable, pitching the mannerisms with precision and choreographing perfectly timed moments of understated humour. A captivating performance. It is tempting to say he stands out, but he is matched by the other three, all of whom bring a powerful and penetrating realism to the roles. Dennis bubbles with the Luddite gruffness of a man who has lived in one place for too long, yet Matt Sutton refocuses this myopic vision and we can clearly see a grieving heart that beats beneath. Jessica Jolley’s Lauren is a gorgeous mix of sense and sensibility, who mocks and respects in equal measure – particularly Ed, for whom she falls. Holding the fort is Jennifer Daley, an outstanding portrayal as the maternal yet heart-achingly vulnerable Angie.

Wells’ writing takes centre stage along with the actors. Nothing much happens but it is brimming with backstories and the subtle and melancholic prose draws out the sadness and grief in just the right measure that it sits comfortably alongside the humour. Tessa Walker’s direction reflects this, unafraid to string out the silences between the clamour of emotion, forming the rhythm of the breakers and backwash on the shingle outside the café. A refreshing and bracing combination, capped by Bob Bailey’s authentic coastal tea-room design.

Each character is mourning the loss of a loved one – a mother, a wife, or a daughter. But the will to keep moving perseveres. The café is on the brink of extinction, but it perseveres. Like the hope that shines through the cracks of these characters’ sadness, it will always be present. Life does go on. This type of theatre is sadly often thought to be obsolete in today’s climate, where everything strives to be innovative, shocking, or polemic. “Big Big Sky” definitely disproves that notion. It draws us into the big big hearts of these characters in a beautifully low-key way. It may be a harsh world they live in, but warmth glows from this snapshot of their lives, which will stay in your heart longer than any photograph.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Robert Day


Big Big Sky

Hampstead Theatre until 11th September


Previously reviewed at this venue in 2021:
The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | July 2021


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Left my Desk – 4 Stars


Left my Desk

New Diorama Theatre

Reviewed – 31st May 2018


“an important piece of theatre which shines a light on a complicated issue”


Produced by the award-winning theatre company Lost Watch, Left My Desk tells the story of Children’s Services social worker, Becca (played by Rianna Dearden) and her struggle to do her job amidst budget cuts, tough cases, and personal sorrows.

The acting overall is of a very high standard, but Adam Langstaff and Rachel Hosker, who both play a variety of characters, from a tough policeman to a young mother with an addiction problem, are the standouts. They switch superbly through their various personas and are highly believable and enjoyable to watch.

The storyline is gripping and gives us a taste of Becca’s personal life and work life, which at times seem to blur into one. There is a lot that is left unresolved and large time jumps, which are sometimes unclear, but this seems to reflect Becca’s job itself as in social work most cases are not tied up neatly with a bow. There are a few cheesy lines that could have been avoided, but overall the plot is fast paced, exciting, and engaging, and clearly shows the breakdown of Becca’s mental health as she strives to do her best at her job. The piece certainly succeeds at pulling you in completely to this world of domestic violence, budget cuts, and class divides, and you can’t help but be affected by the cases Becca has to deal with and impact austerity has had on social work.

The set consists of three white desks and three white rectangular frames on wheels, each with a clear plastic sheet across them. These frames work as office windows, hospital hallways and French windows, and have a lovely reflection effect. They are flexible and work well to illustrate the play’s many locations but also keep the cold, clinical feeling which seems to mirror the way the institution of social work can sometimes feel. As Becca says, “An organisation doesn’t make a great parent.”

The lighting and sound design are excellent and add to the tense mood of the play. The lighting design (Hector Murray) is particularly ingenious in one scene where Becca and her partner, Phil (Jamie Samuel), are driving at night. The scene is the emotional climax of the play and the lights cleverly imitate driving on a motorway at night. Fergus Waldron’s sound design is also very well done, in particular the use of low tones and sound effects underpinning scenes and setting the location (e.g the quiet hum of traffic or the sounds of an office). It’s these small design touches which really lift the piece and bring it all together.

Overall, Left My Desk is an important piece of theatre which shines a light on a complicated issue and tells it from the perspective of those who are on the ground and working in the field. It’s a well-designed, heartfelt, and thought-provoking show and absolutely worth a watch.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Scott Rylander


Left my Desk

New Diorama Theatre until 16th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
It Made me Consider | ★★★ | February 2018
Close Up | ★★★ | February 2018
Trap Street | ★★★★ | March 2018


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