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

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.

Review overview

Overall Performance 8
Production Design 8
Theatre 3


6.3 front row score This is a fantastic performance from Miriam Margolyes, demonstrating her skills in portraying a deeply nasty character. Other characters lacked the depth of Margolyes' Nell, and in the case of Sydney I found him to be a tad unbelievable. The set design was suited to the tight space, and was hyper-realistic. My only criticisms of the design are that some of the sound and light effects were too "obvious" and subtlety would have matched the realistic effect of the physical set... and one of the scene changes went a little wrong and took an uncomfortable amount of time to complete. The theatre - I'm afraid I have nothing good to say about the Park Theatre apart from the sightlines are (naturally, for a tiny venue) fantastic. I was unable to buy a programme because I couldn't find a member of staff. The bar staff told me they weren't able to help. And the seating is so tightly packed that it was both uncomfortable and potentially dangerous in the case of an emergency. Also, a lot of people hung their coats on the bar in front of their seats (think like a safety bar on a rollercoaster) - and mid-way through the performance a series of phones fell out of upsidedown pockets, and made discruptive banging noises as they hit the floor (or the person's head in the row infront).

Tags : Mark HadfieldMax JonesMiriam MargolyesPark TheatreRuth HallVivien Parry
Daniel Edward

The author Daniel Edward

Daniel is a freelance writer and has previously worked in entertainment as a Cruise Director with Royal Caribbean. His main areas of interest are Theatre, Travel and Psychology.
Daniel produces the educational Psychology Unlocked YouTube channel for Secondary School and Undergraduate Students.

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