When caring is not enough

Living in a confined, oppressive space, which many people still do in the UK, is enough to test the patience of a saint or any mortal being come to that. Imagine then an East London flat, on Ruth Hall and Max Jones’s stiflingly realistic set, that is home to disabled Nell and her apparently caring son Sydney, who have nothing but vitriol and venomous thoughts for each other. The perfect storm and playwright Eugene O’Hare unleashes a torrent of abuse and nasty jibes in Sydney and the Old Girl (Park Theatre) as though they are deriving some kind of perverted pleasure.

It is relentless and in the role of the bitter and twisted matriarch, Miriam Margoyles demonstrates why she is such a revered performer both on stage and screen. I was worried that this might end up being a case of Margoyles being Margoyles but the portrayal is nuanced and beautifully crafted. She knows that Sydney can’t wait for her to die and inherit what he believes is rightfully his after living this life of penance. Confined to a wheelchair she makes the poor man suffer, making a torrent of demands to ensure he is never settled. We may have had some sympathy for his plight but when he reveals his bigotry and openly racist attitudes – O’Hare pulls no punches with the language – we begin to think otherwise. Mark Hadfield is excellent in the role and brings real pathos to the role of a man who is a picture of pent up frustrations borne of loneliness and that guilt rendering umbilical chord tethering him to the old woman despite his apparently materialistic intentions.

Into the fray comes actual carer, Marion, who perhaps the playwright thought was needed to break the unceasing bitterness. Vivien Parry looks the part and plays it very well bringing a fresh dynamic drawing out a panoply of emotions from Nell as she allows her guard to drop and reveal her fears and vulnerabilities. Watching her carry out the role one is reminded of the incredibly vital work that carers do throughout the UK, usually for a pittance with unacceptable terms and conditions. Any carer having to deal with Nell and Sydney deserves a medal…and a wage to match.

Although the writing occasionally wilts into a deluge of disdain and defamation, there are also comical moments of real hilarity which are unexpected but welcome. Well directed by Phillip Breen some, of the most poignant moments came in the very pregnant silences. The facade cannot hide the pain below the surface that is within us all.

Meanwhile Guillermo Bigalow is thrilled by depression…

When I first came across Death of a Salesman (Piccadilly Theatre) I read it and thought how can you lift that from page to stage and retain the coruscating intensity? Co-directors Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell have done that with a production that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. A great and depressing masterpiece on the lies we tell ourselves and the danger of being consumed by the past. Willy Loman (Wendell Pierce) is a man who starts strong and ends completely crushed by circumstance and the performance is brilliant. Loyal wife Linda (Sharon D Clarke) does all she can to bolster her man but there is not a scintilla of sentimentality in the portrayal and she is magnificent, dignified and soulful. The supporting cast are strong too in this African-American family torn asunder by life and it’s foibles. This is a show that must be seen and experienced though if you leave feeling like I did you may question my recommendation and sanity – for now I am questioning everything and I’m not even 30 yet!

Finally, Juliana Gratex loves an old favourite…

I was humming all the way home to the perfect happy ending to what could be the biggest comical tragedy of all time. Yum Yum loves Ninkomoop, no let’s get it right Nanki- Poo, but she only has him for one month before his head will come off. Yes Jonathan Miller’s Mikado (English National Opera), reset from Japan to a grand 1930’s grand hotel, on revival number fifteen, is still enormous fun, full of vitality and silliness. An excellent cast struts it’s stuff on Stefanos Lazaridis’ opulent set, a vision of creamy indulgence. Even the dance routines are a hoot, quite bonkers in fact. Sumo-like John Tomlinson is terrific in the title role and Richard Stuart has a ball as the Lord High Executioner with the now infamous “little list”. This operetta is strongly recommended for first timers and those looking for a jolly night out.


Sydney and the Old Girl – 020 7870 6876

Death of a Salesman – 0844 871 7630

The Mikado – 020 7845 9300



Barney Efthimiou

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