Review: Sydney and The Old Girl Park Theatre

Sydney and The Old Girl at Park Theatre

Sydney and The Old Girl at Park Theatre - Credit: Archant

Miriam Margolyes stands out as vicious wheelchair bound Nell in a dysfunctional violent relationship with her inadequate son

Sydney and The Old Girl at Park Theatre

Sydney and The Old Girl at Park Theatre - Credit: Archant

All the three cast members in Eugene O'Hare's pitch black comedy are outstanding, as are the designers who created such an atmospheric set that simultaneously projects the mundane and the sinister.

Everything is clean and tidy but slightly down at heel, secretive and, tellingly, from another time.

Nell (a vicious, frightened Miriam Margolyes), angrily becalmed in her wheelchair, is watching middle-aged Sydney (Mark Hadfield, superb as her failed, guilt ridden, unstable son) trying to fix the TV.

The back of the old set lies optimistically on the floral carpet as he fiddles around, seemingly at random.

The flat is littered with other bits of electronic kit that have been the subject of Sydney's failed repairs.

She taunts his technical inadequacies ... and his failed life. She knows he can't fix the TV ("Everything's broke") and so does Sydney but he is angry that she won't conspire in his pretense of technical competence.

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Their banter swings from the familiar to the shockingly aggressive and sexualised: Sydney's references to poking around in her box was beyond uncomfortable.

The insults aren't just one way: Nell employs her East End Street cred to give at least as good as she gets: "A little squirt that never quite made it to a man."

Some audience members will find the low level violence shocking.

Also in Nell's life is home-help Marion (Vivien Parry in a compelling performance) who is the innocent, well meaning catalyst for opening up the tragic and dark secrets of this supremely dysfunctional relationship.

Like Galton and Simpson's Steptoe and Son of half a century ago, the dialogue is superb and can turn in an instant from hilarity to pathos. Director Phillip Breen gives the trio the space to develop and deliver all the dimensions that these characters demand.

Sometimes hard to watch, this is great theatre.