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PENNYROYAL at Finborough Theatre

Pennyroyal is a beautifully written new play about sisterhood and motherhood, enduring love and regrets, many years in the making. The playwright, Lucy Roslyn, was inspired to write it having read Edith Wharton’s novella The Old Maid.

Madison Clare and Lucy Roslyn in Pennyroyal - credit Helen Murray.
Madison Clare and Lucy Roslyn in Pennyroyal – credit Helen Murray.

When Daphne (Madison Clare) is diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency at the age of nineteen, her sister Charlotte (Lucy Roslyn) steps in to help in the only way she knows how: by donating her eggs. As the years go by and the long road of IVF stretches away in front, the sisters’ relationship begins to twist….

Pennyroyal seamlessly moves through the years, the dialogue sounding very natural as the sisters gradually learn how to deal with the disappointments and regrets over the years, but at the same time being very ‘alive’ and at times very funny, as well as being poignant and surprisingly moving. The play works both as a superb example of English prose, as well as a piece of drama/theatre. Overall, one leaves the Finborough Theatre feeling inspired as the subjects of IVF and relationships are dealt with using a warmth which is perhaps surprising. In short, this is a wonderful new play.

The performances are easily at the same level, with both actors sparring with each other as if they really are sisters and have known and loved each other for years. I especially enjoyed the way that Clare used her eyes and hands/arms to build a totally believable role that it was easy to feel involved with – in fact, in the tiny space of the Finborough Theatre, one really felt that one was an unseen interloper in the room. Roslyn is equally good, taking the audience into her confidence from her opening lines; she uses facial expressions particularly subtly and speaks her own lines as if they are spontaneous. This is not acting, this is BEING – and both actors are totally believable.

Imaginative direction by Josh Roche ensures that the play is paced well, always effectively building to climaxes and always ensuring that the audience feels involved. The striking, yet simple, set is by Sophie Thomas and the unusual lighting design by Cheng Keng.

This is by far the most enjoyable new play and some of the best acting I have encountered for a long time: do go and see it!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

Developed over lockdown, it was originally programmed to premiere at VAULT Festival 2022, and now makes its debut at the multi-award-winning Finborough Theatre.

Pennyroyal is a heartrending new play about sisterhood and motherhood; enduring love and regrets many years in the making.

When Daphne is diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency at 19, her sister Christine steps in to help in the only way she knows how: by donating her eggs. For a moment, the world seems corrected. But as the years go by and Daphne sets out on the long road of IVF, the sisters’ relationship begins to twist. Pennyroyal explores the things expected of women and what happens when life doesn’t go to plan.

This new play was inspired by Edith Wharton’s 1922 novella ‘The Old Maid’, which was adapted 10 years later into a stage play by Zoe Akins. With her adaptation, Akins became the second woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A hundred years later, the story is reimagined by Lucy Roslyn, with direction by Josh Roche, lighting by Cheng Keng, music and sound by Hugh Sheehan.

Cast: Madison Clare and Lucy Roslyn

by Lucy Roslyn
Directed by Josh Roche

Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road,
London, SW10 9ED
Tuesday, 12 July – Saturday, 6 August 2022

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  • 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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