MARK Edgar-Clarkson was experiencing a few pre-performance butterflies when I bumped into him at the Garrick box office.
It was totally understandable, for this familiar face on this theatre’s stage was making his debut as a director at this fabulous little venue where there really is nowhere to hide.
But what an accomplished and assured debut it was. He had nothing to fear and, on the evidence of this absorbing and engaging and at times painfully moving production it won’t be the last time he’s asked to take on this role.
Meet Beatrice Hunsdorfer, the mother from hell who keeps her daughter Tillie, a brilliant science student, imprisoned, like a latter day Cinderella, at home. Eaten up with resentment that life has passed her by, this vile woman delights in dispensing the cruellest of barbs to Tillie, her epileptic sister Ruth and Nanny, the poor old soul whose been dumped on her by a daughter who loves her career far more than the woman who gave her life.
I’ve seen Kathryn Fennell tread the boards in Trafford numerous times. But as harridan extraordinaire Beatrice this is her best performance to date, superbly supported by Megan Relph as the mousy and mild mannered Tillie and Robyn Elizabeth Henshaw as her sister, Ruth.
Will Tillie achieve her full potential? Paul Zindel ensures we care - it doesn’t take a genius to work out why this play scooped the much sought after Pulitzer Prize. Totally devoid of cliche, Zindel writes in a way that silents pulls out your heart strings. There is humour too, with Beatrice at times so gross you can’t fail but laugh at her.
Janet Reidsma never says a word as Nanny. But there are times in drama when it’s the things that aren’t said that are the most powerful and Janet is so convincing in this role I ached for someone to come to her rescue. Hannah Weiner excels as Tillie’s horrendous student rival Janice Vickery, a young lady yet to grasp the meaning of the word “ethics.”
Yet another major triumph for a wonderful little space, whose productions continue to make a big impression on this particular hack. Do not miss this.
* Until October 30. The box office is on 0161 928 1677. Star rating - ****