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Sydney & The Old Girl at Park Theatre | Review

Miriam Margolyes & Mark Hadfield in Sydney & the Old Girl at Park Theatre. Photo by Pete Le May
Miriam Margolyes & Mark Hadfield in Sydney & the Old Girl at Park Theatre. Photo by Pete Le May

Eugene O’Hare’s second full length play, Sydney and the Old Girl is a wickedly funny, black comedy, showcasing Miriam Margolyes’ talents to the full, whilst also providing meaty roles for the other two actors in this three-handed play.

Sydney Stock has lived for over fifty years cooped up with his mother Nell in her grubby East End home. Their only reason for living seems to be because they loathe each other and need to cause each other as much pain as possible, perhaps because of what happened to Bernie… Both have an obsession with the past and a paranoia about the future.

Into this ‘happy’ family steps Nell’s carer, Marion, who finds herself used as a pawn in the game.

Eugen O’Hare has a gift for writing punchy, witty, dialogue that often needs tremendous energy from the actors in its delivery.

Mark Hadfield as Sydney (what does he have in his red bag?) is very adept at doing this and whenever he is on stage the pace never flags as Nell and he spar with each other like verbal tennis. Occasionally lines are not always secure, but overall his is a menacing, very believable portrayal of a complex character: someone we sympathise with, even if we cannot understand why he has not been able to escape his mother’s clutches.

Miriam Margolyes gives as good as she gets in her ‘arguments’ with Sydney. She spends most of the play in a wheel chair, but can clearly get up and walk around with some difficulty when she wants to, which is rarely, except when she wants to drink some of her hidden alcohol stash. Because of her sedentary status, she has in some way power over Sydney, or thinks she has! The truth is that the two cannot do without each other and Ms Margolyes brings this out with a high degree of both pathos and comedy, even if the role is inclined to verge into the stereotypical at times.

The role of the carer, Marion Fee, is well written to provide a total contrast to the other two. As convincingly portrayed by Vivien Parry her scenes with Nell are moments of ‘rest’ for the audience, before the next row between Nell and Sydney. She is totally believable, though one questions the motivation for her actions.

All three actors work as a real ensemble, playing off each other most effectively, getting everything possible out of the play, aided by clever direction by Philip Breen, who clearly understands exactly what is required.

Set and costume design are by Max Jones and Ruth Hall. They have created a living room and kitchen area of a typical Victorian terrace house which is easy to use and naturalistic, apart from the carpet which looks brand new, especially against the seedy furniture – threadbare chair and heavily water/coffee stained dining table.

Although the play’s dialogue is often hilarious yet painful, the simple plot is a tad obvious and the denouement not quite convincing. However, as a whole the evening is not to be missed – as often in true black comedy we find ourselves laughing out loud at situations and actions which in reality are anything but funny. Highly recommended – if you can get a ticket!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Nell and Sydney Stock are at war – and it’s mutually assured destruction. After 50 years cooped up in the same shabby East London house where ghosts of a hard life still linger, the points scored in never ending arguments continue to bind the pair together. And then, there is the not so simple matter of the inheritance…

As the twisted game between mother and son reaches breaking point, Irish care worker Marion Fee finds herself an unwitting pawn, played from both sides. Nell will stop at nothing for her bitter triumph over Sydney – but he has his own plans on how to end this once and for all.

NELL STOCK – MIRIAM MARGOLYES
SYDNEY STOCK – MARK HADFIELD
MARION FEE – VIVIEN PARRY

WRITER – EUGENE O’HARE
DIRECTOR – PHILLIP BREEN
CO-DESIGNERS – MAX JONES AND RUTH HALL
LIGHTING DESIGNER – TINA MAC HUGH
SOUND DESIGNER – DYFAN JONES
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – CONNOR ABBOT
COMPANY STAGE MANAGER – RICKY MCFADDEN
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER & PROPS SUPERVISOR – ADAM MOORE WHITE

Park Theatre presents the World Premiere of
Sydney & the Old Girl
By Eugene O’Hare
31 Oct – 30 Nov 2019
Park200
Park Theatre
Clifton Terrace
Finsbury Park, N4 3JP
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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