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.
- Soundtrack: Amélie – The Musical
- Amélie is a beautiful blend of melancholy and wistful dreams
- The Boy Friend is a trip back in time at the Menier Chocolate Factory
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…
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.