For anyone watching this short but extraordinary play who has grown up in the loving embrace of their natural family, the pain portrayed is almost unimaginable. But here, two actors, one writer and a director bring that pain to life.

First to consider is the quality of the writing. Mark Wilson’s script is sparse, not a wasted word or moment. Each character precisely wrought, each utterance lands with poignant effect, sadness, despair, anger, moments of hope and even joy – it’s all there but never laboured, Wilson has left the director and actors the space to build on his words.

And build they do. Emmie Spencer keeps things clean, every voice is clearly defined as her cast take on the multiple roles in this sad tale of mother and baby units. It was a system that sounds now almost Victorian but actually continued into the 1970s. Young girls, or should that be  women, who became pregnant outside of marriage would be sent away, by their families, to have the child in secret and that child then taken away for adoption. Cruel, heartbreaking and damaging to all concerned, but especially to those young mothers and ultimately to those children and often the adoptive parents. Spencer handles the whole without ever resorting to fierce anger or histrionics. The sadness is gently portrayed and is far more effective and affecting for that, skilled work at play.

All of the roles are taken on by two actors but there is never a moment of confusion, they use changes of accent but with a delicacy that is fitting and rely more on posture and composure to ring the necessary changes.

Sophie Dearlove beautifully inhabits the role of Cathy, the young woman at the centre of the story, there is innocence to see but also longing and desire and as the story moves forward such sadness and loss. Her short moment as her own mother is charged with bitterness and later as the adoptive mother a sense of both sadness and despair and then pure joy. In short this is a magnificent performance on every level.

Samuel Masters is… well masterful. As the ‘hardly knew him’ soldier he is charming but the charm drains away after their magical night at the dance hall. His depiction of Cathy’s father is so gentle and so loving that it is one of the highlights of the piece and as the adoptive father he again captures that sadness of losing a child and then the joy of finding love in adoption.

The most telling line in the whole is when Cathy’s mother uses the word shame and as a character  never appears again. Yes shame but not Cathy’s shame, her own shame at abandoning her own child to the cruel system that took away children.

This is yet another piece of work from New Venture Theatre that destroys the boundary between what is called amateur and professional. There is nothing amateur here, from the staging to the performance it is compellingly impressive. I loved this, short as it is it felt exactly the right length.

Andrew Kay

6 October

New Venture Theatre

Rating: ★★★★★

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