Tag Archives: Max Jones

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

 

Noises Off

Noises Off

★★★★

Garrick Theatre

Noises Off

Noises Off

Garrick Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd October

★★★★

 

“a gloriously silly evening”

 

When all around is strife and uncertainty, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned plate of… farce. Thirty-seven years after its debut performance at the Lyric Hammersmith, Michael Frayn’s play of backstage antics bleeding into on stage catastrophe is as thigh-slappingly funny as ever.

For West End audiences used to the meta-theatricality of Mischief Theatre’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ will find themselves on familiar territory here – Mischief’s hugely successful show it essentially a full-length take on Frayn’s final act. What this production allows however is a look behind the scenes, seeing the love triangles, squabbles and gossip that take places in corners the audience normally cannot see. Act One introduces the array of wonderfully exuberant characters in rehearsal, Act Two takes us literally behind the scenes to show how love breaks this particularly touring company apart, and Act Three takes us further along the tour when the actor’s exasperation causes absolute chaos onstage.

The joy is seeing all the jokes set up in Act One come to fruition in Act Three. Jeremy Herrin’s production keeps the energy high and the pace quick. His ensemble leap to the challenge. Sarah Hadland is gossipy dame using balletic posture and glued on grins to see the show through. Richard Henders plays an excellent Frederick Fellowes, epitomising the actor seeking meaning for every move he makes. Simon Rouse plays a drunken octogenarian with aplomb and Lloyd Owen is a suitably sarcastic and exasperated director. Meera Syal, as Dotty Otley, lives up to her name, unable to remember when to bring sardines on and when to bring them off.

Max Jones’ set is nicely modern, and the costumes fit into the present day well. This is pastiche of a genre that will always please. The audience tonight was guffawing in the stalls. My only reservation is in the casting – it could have been a little more inventive. That aside, this is a gloriously silly evening of comedy that will leave anyone with sore cheeks and good spirits. Fans of Mischief Theatre would be advised to check this out, along with anyone else interested in the theatricality of theatre and what madcap relationships go on behind the scenes. It might leave you wondering why anyone would get involved in the game of theatre. But it’s the precariousness of live theatre itself that will always be the most entertaining thing on stage.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Helen Maybanks

 


Noises Off

Garrick Theatre until 4th January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Rip It Up – The 60s | ★★★ | February 2019
Bitter Wheat | ★★★★ | June 2019
Brainiac Live! | ★★★★ | August 2019

 

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