"A Moving and Effective Production"
by Paul Ackroyd for remotegoat on 24/05/19

Harper Regan is an ordinary woman holding down a responsible job with a loving husband and daughter. Her father is dying and she wishes to visit him in the north of the country. From such a mundane scenario Simon Stephens has created a memorable and moving portrait of a woman forced out of her comfort zone and having to come to terms with the underlying realities of her own background, relationships and insecurities. First performed at the National Theatre in 2008 this revival by Contentment Productions at the Tabard Theatre demonstrated why it has become a modern classic.
The play is a series of vignettes in different locations: Harper’s house, a canal , a hospital, a pub, a hotel room which chart her journey and the people she interacts with over two days. Two days that will change her life. The play was simply set on the small playing area in the Tabard Theatre with four large semi transparent screens moved around by the cast to indicate the changing locations with the minimum of stage furnishings necessary to complete the effect.
The acting was of a consistently high order. Emmy Happisburg in the title role gave a sympathetic portrayal of Regan in all the emotional moods that her rollercoaster journey requires and she was well supported by the rest of the cast. I particularly liked Joseph Langdon’s portrayal of Tobias Rich the young man she encounters on the canal and Marcus McManus as the offensive and louche journalist she confronts in the bar.
Simon Stephen’ s writing is measured and well paced and this production directed by Pollyanna Newcombe had exactly the right approach in bringing out the humour and pathos in the script. The cast made very effective use of appropriate pauses and yet the pace never dragged. This is a play in which nothing is predictable and the cast and the director did well to maintain the suspense and intrigue of the evening.
This was the first production by Contentment Productions a new theatre company created to increase female representation on the stage. It augurs well for the future.

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