Tag Archives: Julia Cranney



The Hope Theatre




“Moments … a touching work, full of sadness but also smattered with humour”


Although Pennyworth Production’s objective to create ‘new work to challenge old ideas’ could be open to interpretation, this poignant and compelling double bill certainly reinforces the ‘kitchen sink’ philosophy that real-life is drama in itself. Drawing on subjects often buried but part of the make-up of modern society – loneliness, family tensions, mental health – the slow, tragic undercurrent of ‘Moments’ and the restless, tragic unravelling of ‘Empty Beds’ fit together beautifully. With sensitive writing by Julia Cranney and masterly direction by Kate Treadell, the production focuses on the impact of the unspoken and the force of the absent, leaving the characters on stage battling to move forward from lives they have left behind or missed.

‘Moments’ interlocks two unlikely people, with clever, spoken dialogue, binding them together for the audience before they find their own friendship. Simon Mattack and Julia Cranney (Daniel and Ava) give strong, sympathetic performances as they try to keep up appearances between awkward glances and growing familiarity and struggling to find the warmth of human contact in the coldness of a big city. The pace, perhaps, remains constant for slightly too long and the action is somewhat precipitated after Daniel’s personal revelation, which cuts short a very moving scene. Nevertheless, it is a touching work, full of sadness but also smattered with humour.

While ‘Moments’ works well, ‘Empty Beds’ is a flawless piece of drama, perfectly directed and interpreted. Debbie Brannan (Jo) and Carys Wright (Emily) join Julia Cranney (Catherine) as three sisters on a train journey to visit their brother on his birthday. Inevitably the emotional bond connecting them tightens and loosens, and resentments, truths and affections are stirred up. The changing pace and mood and the superb acting are completely absorbing as the sisters, confined to a train carriage, cannot escape the confrontations as they unpick their relationships with each other.

Anna Reid’s set is perfectly unassuming in its simplicity, uncluttered by props, and the lighting (Ali Hunter) is unobtrusive yet carefully enhancing. Even the sound, which plays a prominent part in sketching the background, similar to a radio drama, does not detract from the stage. In all three aspects less is unquestionably more, all brought neatly together by Georgia Tetlow (Stage Manager and Operator). Moreover, Pennyworth Productions advocacy to favour women on and off stage is remarkable here and most fitting in the current climate of equality.

It is often hard to dramatise the delicate social issues broached in these plays. They can become sentimental, over-simplified or too dark. The company gives an honest, articulate version of what lies behind families and friendships, admittance, acceptance and regret, in well-balanced tragi-comedies. It shows how the survival instinct of human nature shines through the pain of life’s conditions with humour and hope, conjuring up a myriad of emotions in a highly recommended evening at the Hope Theatre.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Reviewed – 1st February 2018

Photography by Nick Reed


Moments & Empty Beds

Hope Theatre until 17th February



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Review of Moments – 4 Stars

Moments thespyinthestalls.com


Hen & Chickens Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd August 2017





“a quality script, beautifully delivered and charmingly performed”



Coincidence creates connection in this sweet and gentle tale of strangers living in an anonymous city. Julia Cranney’s play tells the story of Daniel and Ava, two unlikely companions dealing with the loneliness of modern life and finding comfort in a chance encounter. The second show, from the already award-winning Pennyworth Productions, is a delicate comedy attempting to address the loneliness of modern living. A gentle laugh rather than a guffaw.

Moments thespyinthestalls.com

This is perfect 6’o’clock viewing – a good cup of coffee at the end of the day. Endearing from the outset, the play presents our two abandoned souls with warmth and humour, never cloying or obvious. The production plays to the venue’s strengths, keeping it simple and open, but not un-sophisticated. The action of the play is mainly told through two voice overs, which is insightful but not over bearing, and Richard Speir’s direction carefully balances the blossoming friendship. The overall effect is very slick, but most importantly frees the actors to really nuance their performances.

As a two hander, the play rests on the strength of the cast and both performers more than live up to the task. Writer Julia Cranney is all too recognisable as the isolated Ava, both desperate and terrified to reach out to others. Nervy and vulnerable, Cranney’s is equally matched by the stoic and easy going Daniel, a man dealing with the aftermath a family breakdown. In lesser hands, this character could have easily been seedy, but Simon Mattacks is brilliant in his portrayal – instantly reassuring and charismatic. The contrast between the world-weary and the naïve have you really rooting for these characters to open up to each other from the get go, and the pay off, though small, is striking.

Moments thespyinthestalls.com

The only slight criticism I can offer is a scene where Mattacks performs with his back to the audience. While I can see the narrative sense and it is in-keeping with the tone of the piece, it shuts Daniel out of the intimacy that Speir’s has built between the audience and the performers. Even that slight barrier, made me feel like I was missing something from the scene as a whole. That said, it gives Cranney a real chance to articulate Ava’s dilemma and Mattacks recovers more than admirably.

I really liked this show. While it may not be the flashiest or most spectacular show on the Fringe this season, what it does it does really – a quality script, beautifully delivered and charmingly performed. This is a company that clearly takes a lot of pride in their work and it certainly pays off – this is new writing at its best. A strong and safe second outing for a new company that I would highly recommend.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com


Moments thespyinthestalls.com




is at the Hen & Chickens Theatre on 26th & 27th August as part of the Camden Fringe Festival



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