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 👉

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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The Man In The White Suit is a comic trip down memory lane. The 1951 comedy leaves Ealing for the West End.

9.2front row score

If you’re game for a laugh, head to the Wyndham’s Theatre for Sean Foley‘s stage adaptation of the 1951 Ealing Studios film The Man In The White Suit.

Stephen Mangan stars in this new stage adaptation of the comedy, which centres around a socially-bizarre chemistry graduate from Cambridge who has invented a new type of thread which never tears or stains – meaning you only need to buy one of everything and you won’t have to worry about laundry either!

Despite many villagers of Trimley geeing Sidney Stratton (Stephen Mangan) on towards his dream cloth, Sidney finds himself in a tight corner once his experiments seem to have led to a truly unbreakable and untarnishable material.

The rich textiles barons are terrified that their wealth is about to vanish before their eyes, so will do anything they can to prevent the cloth from being made. On the other side of the factory-divide, the workers have realised that an indestructable material means fewer clothes will be needed… which means fewer clothes will be made… which means fewer workers to make them… which means bad news for them.

Only Kara Tointon’s terribly posh Daphne Birnley – daughter of a textile factory owner – is on Sidney’s side to the end. So much on his side, that she has fallen in love with him!

The ensemble brings the character of the Ealing Comedy to life with new songs, written by Charlie Fink – former frontman of Noah and the Whale.

I would recommend buying a programme if you go to see this show because the interviews with Fink and the writer-director Sean Foley are interesting reads.

Michael Taylor’s set design is also an undoubted star of the show, delivering the punchline of as many jokes as some of the characters.

I particularly enjoyed Daphne’s car journey, with Sidney clinging on to the outside of the car as she continues her cross-country journey nonplussed that he is swinging off the rear of her car like a scarf in the wind.

The Man in the White Suit was originally based on Roger MacDougall’s play The Flower Within The Bud, which I had never heard of before seeing this production. Perhaps it’s one to take a look at – it’s certainly led to some very entertaining theatre in its current mutated form.

This production of The Man in the White Suit opened at the Wyndham’s Theatre on 27 September 2019 and closes on 11 January 2020.

Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, including one 20 minute interval

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