Tuesday, September 22, 2009


College Players at Brentwood Theatre


Kate Atkinson's first novel transfers remarkably well to the stage: the story of Ruby Lennox and her dysfunctional extended family makes an absorbing drama in Bryony Lavery's adaptation, which was impressively staged at Brentwood by the College Players.

Ruby – too clever for her own good – is guided by her therapist as she revisits her colourful past. Emma Feeney gave a beautifully observed performance in the role – funny, and deeply moving in places, she held the narrative together as it leaped the generations and travelled from Whitby [paradise with Auntie Doreen] to Scotland [hell with the Ropers] via the Trenches and the lost property cupboard of the afterlife.

There were many more fine performances in a very large cast – Dawn Cooke's blowsy Bunty, and Lindsay Hollingsworth's Grandma Nell, ageing 50 years in an instant.

Lauren Bracewell's wondrous production had many memorable, moving moments. The ghosts of York crowding the stage, with the tiny lost sister weaving through them, the layers of memory in the shoeless shoe box, the expressionist fire and the climax on the ice. Music and lighting were effectively used to enhance the drama, set against a palimpsest of peeling wallpaper and family photographs.

programme design: James Feeney

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