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Sydney & the Old Girl
Park Theatre, London ★★★★✩
IN EUGENE O’HARE’S darkly comic play, multi-award-winning stage and screen actress Miriam Margolyes (or Harry Potter’s Professor Sprout to some) is one half of a cockney mother/son relationship that is more bitter than biting into a lemon.
Margolyes plays wheelchair-bound octogenarian Nell — though her middle-aged son Sydney (Mark Hadfield) has some other choice names for her.
None of them are nice, most are not publishable and plenty more are directed from mother to son. ‘You bin lid,’ she spits.
Written ten years ago, though staged here for the first time, this three-hander feels neither dated nor current. Imagine early Pinter combined with a nightmarish version of Only Fools And Horses and you’ll arrive at something close to the funny and disturbing dysfunction on display.
The play is set in Nell’s shabby-sans-chic east London home. As Sydney attempts to fix the TV, mother and son terrorise each other with insults intended to wound as deeply as a kitchen knife.
Much of the play feels like a character study and appropriately enough Phillip Breen’s production boasts three excellent character actors. Vivien Parry completes the trio as Nell’s Irish carer Marion.
She enters late into the play but becomes key to its plot when Nell sees in her an opportunity to deny her son his inheritance. In fact, the acting is so good it is easy to overlook the skill with which, in what was only his second play when he wrote it, O’Hare depicts the mutual needs of two people in constant conflict.
Margolyes is on superb form as the vulnerable and bullying Nell, Hadfield is spot-on as a self-pitying and sinister misanthrope, while Parry is just wonderful as Marion, a woman whose decency might never survive the cruelty of the other two.
A new play could not hope for better performances.
Posted : 8th November 2019