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Daniel Edward

ComedyLondonShows

Miriam Margolyes carries Sydney & The Old Girl over the line at the Park Theatre

Miriam Margolyes in Sydney & the Old Girl
6.3front row score

A few stops north of Kings Cross St Pancras, the Park Theatre is a tightly-packed 200 seat studio theatre with the most poorly designed circle I’ve ever sat in. It’s also where Miriam Margolyes leads the three-strong cast in the world premiere of Sydney & The Old Girl for a strictly limited four week run.

But back to the seating for a moment. This venue is so cramped. If you suffer in any way from claustrophobia, avoid any production at the Park Theatre.

It’s such a shame because intimate venues are so fantastic for emotional dramas. A small space draws out intense facial performances, and delivers powerful dramatic rawness.

This small space, however, is simply a fire risk. The two rows of seating in the circle are so slimline, that passing others to reach your allocated (bench) seat is a logistical struggle. Standing up to leave is equally challenging.

And, unless you’re 7ft9 you’ll need to rest your feet on a bar or have your legs dangling like a toddler in a highchair for the duration of the show.

About the show…

Miriam Margolyes: Sydney & The Old Girl

🎬 New trailer alert 🚨 Miriam Margolyes is BACK 🙌 Hear what Miriam has to say about playing the cantankerous character of Nell Stock in the World Premiere black comedy SYDNEY & THE OLD GIRL, coming soon to Park Theatre.After the sell-out success of Madame Rubinstein in 2017, EARLY BOOKING for Miriam's next stage performance is a MUST! Tickets 👉 www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/sydney-the-old-girl

Posted by Park Theatre London on Friday, 10 May 2019

It’s said that this piece by Eugene O’Hare is a black comedy. It’s not laugh-out-loud hilarious as some of the critics put it, but there are certainly humourous moments which raise a smirk. It is certainly dark though.

Miriam Margolyes plays the role of Nell Stock – mother of Sydney (Mark Hadfield). The play is set in Nell’s East London living room – delapidated, with emergency sirens tirelessly wailing past.

Nell and Sydney are at each other’s throats for the whole 120 minutes of drama, intent on acerbically doing the other in. Well-meaning Marion Fee (Vivien Parry) finds herself caught up in the middle of the feuding relations, and gets thoroughly used by both players.

There is some depth of character in this new piece by O’Hare, but I sense that it is Margolyes final edit of the script that both lifts and deepens the characterisations here.

Mark Hadfield, by contrast, is unable to keep up and his depiction of Sydney swings between mentally-disabled to camp, with equally inconsistent accent work too.

The set design (Max Jones and Ruth Hall) is hyper-realistic, and is expertly framed. The stage is set within a 1 foot fourth-wall border, furthering the impression of Nell being trapped in this dingy box of flat.

The fully sold-out run ends on the 30 November and, speaking to Miriam Margolyes after the show, she doesn’t plan to transfer her performance elsewhere. She really does make this production, so it will be a hard act to follow if the producers do decide to take this show on the road.

The world premiere of Sydney & The Old Girl opened at the Park Theatre (Finsbury Park, London) on 31 October 2019 and closes on 30 November 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes, incl. one interval.

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LondonPlaysShows

I commend this debut to the House. Simon Woods’ Hansard is a sign of more to come

8.3front row score

The Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre) isn’t a bad spot to stage your first play as a writer. Simon Woods has really landed on his feet here with his 80-minute one-act political comi-drama.

There are certainly more than a few clever, witty moments through the play, though I can’t help thinking that the Oxford graduate is something of a poor man’s Alan Ayckbourn at present.

The play, set in an expansive Cotswolds house, with a garden (off-stage) blighted by foxes, carries the audience through a morning with Diana and Robin Hesketh (Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings).

The Heskeths have been married thirty years – he’s a Conservative MP, whilst she presents herself as resolutely Left.

The comic spite in their political disagreements in the first half of this play were too big a challenge for me to believe in their marriage. They were a marriage of convenience – a writer’s convenience – and not, for me, grounded in reality.

However, there was a real and gritty element to this story. It took an hour or so to discover it, but the clincher at the end is really very arresting.

I would have liked to delve more into the couple’s painful history a little earlier in the play, which might have helped ground some of the throwaway, witty to-and-fros.

Simon Godwin’s stage directions work well on the wide Lyttelton stage. Constant movement, sometimes focused, sometimes aimless, mimiced real life expertly.

But it was mimicry.

The play was an open manifesto. It was not suggestive, but instructive. It was not subtle, but a poster for the political movement of gay rights and the internal struggles of the Conservative Party to get there.

A word, as always, about the set: designed by Hildegard Bechtler the set struck me as almost cinematic in its proportions. Wide – 16:9 wide. And deep too – there was a real depth to the stage, with rooms leading into rooms into rooms.

I liked the open but clear separation between the front rooms, allowing the actors to partake in a wide dance, engaging with each other as if joined by a elastic bungee cord, but never close enough to touch.

Hildegard should have a stern word with Jackie Shemesh (Lighting Designer) about the “sunlight” streaming in from the Stage Left windows. About as believable as the longevity of the protagonists’ marriage.

The World Premiere of Hansard opened at the Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre) on 3 September 2019 and closes on 25 November 2019.

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