Tag Archives: Pete Le May

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 Wrong Ffion Jones

The Wrong Ffion Jones

VAULT Festival

he Wrong Ffion Jones

The Wrong Ffion Jones

The Vaults

Reviewed – 20th February 2019



“she conjures up three-dimensional scenarios with a winning blend of physical agility and comic flair”


What does it mean to be Welsh? And what does it mean to be Welsh when everything you know and love about Wales is under threat? These are the questions asked by Ffion Jones, playing herself in a hilarious one-woman show at the VAULT Festival.

In a dystopian near-future, Wales has become ‘Walesland’ – a stifling theme park of itself cynically controlled by tycoons Bevan, Bevan, Bevan and Co. (The choice of name is presumably a cheeky nod to Rhys Bevan, the show’s director). Jones works as a tour guide and finds herself faced with a horrible moral dilemma when the Bevans offer her an opportunity that puts her trade – and that of her colleagues – at risk. To complicate matters further, she is becoming the face of a rebellion against their corporate values. Will she abandon her principles? Or will she put Wales before her own interests and lead the revolution?

In telling the story, Ffion brilliantly embodies its various characters, flitting between them with remarkable wit and invention. It’s quite some feat to hold up both ends of a conversation, using different voices and poised in different positions to bring alive diverse personalities, but she conjures up three-dimensional scenarios with a winning blend of physical agility and comic flair.

The humour is surreal and sophisticated. While there are inevitably jokes about Tom Jones, Richard Burton and sheep, they are never obvious. With a lightness of touch that prevents it ever becoming worthy or self-important, the show goes way further than mere wisecracks to make profound observations about capitalism and national pride. The clever use of projected home-video footage of Ffion as a young child adds emotional depth and introduces some visual variety. There’s real subtlety at work here, making it a refreshing and stimulating fifty-five minutes.

Ffion oozes charm, from the moment she steps on the stage waving a leek to seeming completely taken aback at the well-deserved standing ovation at the end. The quick-wittedness of her delivery – possibly honed through stand-up or improv comedy – is astonishing. In fact, if there’s a criticism it’s that it’s occasionally a little too fast. There’s so much going on, so rapidly, that you can’t always catch every visual or verbal gag. This makes it tricky to keep up with certain moments in the narrative. When she slows things down a little, such as for her amusing and oddly touching cover version of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler, you can really savour the dazzling range of her gifts.

The staging is minimal, with just three chairs, a microphone stand and a screen. But nothing else is needed: Ffion Jones creates an entire world.


Reviewed by Stephen Fall

Photography by  Pete Le May


Vault Festival 2019

The Wrong Ffion Jones

Part of VAULT Festival 2019




Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com