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Review: Sydney and the Old Girl, at Park Theatre

15 November, 2019 — By Jack Courtney O’Connor

Miriam Margolyes in Sydney and the Old Girl. Photo: Pete Le May

THE Irish wit Oscar Wilde made his name exposing the contradictions of the dysfunctional English upper-middle class. The Irish actor and writer Eugene O’Hare is making a name exposing the dysfunctional English lower middle-class.

Actor O’Hare (recently seen in Dublin Murders) turned heads with his debut play The Weatherman, staged at The Park Theatre: a Pinter-inspired play concerning two outsiders living in rooms threatened and menaced by strangers.

His latest work, Sydney and the Old Girl, is a two-act play and a star turn for the veteran actress Miriam Margolyes, who plays a grumpy old dear living with her oddball son Sydney (Mark Hadfield) whom she calls a poof.

He in turn calls her “an old snatch” and worse. The play is described as a dark comedy and at times it is very dark, depressing and racist.

Set in London’s East End, along with echoes of early Pinter it’s reminiscent of London-born Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane).

They are joined by an Irish carer Marian Fee (nicely played by Vivien Parry), whose warmth is a much welcome antidote to the otherwise toxic atmosphere.

Fee works as a volunteer for poor Irish orphans and, curiously, struggling young Irish writers. Her charity work becomes a driving factor to the play’s rather melodramatic ending.

The production is directed by Philip Breen with much pace and verve with external danger introduced by outside sirens and flashing lights.

However, if the author’s intention is to show that austerity and Brexit creates paranoia and racism he is only marginally successful. The piece is extremely well acted by the players and O’Hare’s dialogue is punchy and spoiling for a fight.

Until November 30
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