The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds: Brockley Jack - Theatre Review

Marigolds Image

Shy and quiet Tillie enters her school’s Science Fair as a way of escaping her dysfunctional family and troubled home-life.

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Settling into the cosy Jack Studio Theatre, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds begins with a captivating Brian Cox style audio recording from our protagonist Tillie, waxing lyrical about atoms and how we all are made of stars. The set twinkles with starlight and burning gas giants as we float through the Universe to an atmospheric soundscape. However, soon we are brought down to earth with a bump when we realise this lyrical poet lives in a run-down household with her incredibly dysfunctional family. As the story unfolds, the introverted Tillie finds some comfort in her project for her school’s Science Fair – nurturing Marigold seeds that have been exposed to radiation.

Sophie Doherty gives a pitch-perfect performance as Tillie’s mentally abusive mother Beatrice. As she purrs into the telephone or languidly puffs on a cigarette dishing out cruel barbs, there is a slight whiff of a Judy Garland breakdown crossed with a Blanche Dubois sense of ego here, and Doherty provides a masterclass in playing to the audience whilst maintaining the Fourth Wall. Tillie’s sister Ruth, played wonderfully by the compelling Katherine Rodden, is the quintessential annoying sister. Her teasing and sly attacks coupled with a hyperactive personality and an ever-looming threat of a nervous or stress-based ‘attack’ makes her a fascinating character. In contrast, Evelyn Campbell’s Tillie provides a great sense of stillness and inner-strength and the ensemble is nicely rounded by the inclusion of Clare Almond as Nanny, and a brilliant turn by Grace Lyons Hudson as Tillie’s Science Fair rival Janice Vickery.

Later, as Tillie concludes her Science Fair speech she looks forward hopefully to a future where mutants like her glowing Marigolds will be stronger and more adept at survival – a pointed reminder that her mother’s poisonous radiation will perhaps only make Tillie stronger, whilst her sister may end up like the misshapen Marigolds that have shrivelled and died. However, as the family slowly unravels and we are left incredulously laughing at the malicious nature of her mother Beatrice, we wonder how hopeful this family’s future will actually be (and what is it with emotionally damaged women and pet rabbits...?)

The accomplished OutFox Productions have clearly worked extremely hard on this piece and this shows in the beautiful and layered sound, lighting and set design. Director Amy Gunn has created a real sense of an intimate but ultimately dysfunctional family and the piece is engaging throughout. However, perhaps due to a fault with the writing (the play was originally written in 1964) there is a slight sense that the piece leaves some threads unexplored or unresolved. There are also some moments in which we lose the sense of the characters, or we do not quite achieve the intensity we would hope for in order for the conclusion to really bite. Ultimately, this is a considered, engaging and interesting production from the conscientious OutFox. Definitely a company to watch, with big ambitions and great production values.

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(c) Carly Halse, Reviewed on 16th October 2013

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The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
London
Jack Studio Theatre
1st October – 19th October 2013
19:45 (approx. 1.5 hours with interval)

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Credits

Tillie – Evelyn Campbell
Beatrice – Sophie Doherty
Ruth – Katherine Rodden
Nanny – Clare Almond
Janice Vickery – Grace Lyons Hudson

Director – Amy Gunn
Producers – Kirsty Fox and John Fricker
Designer – Gina Rose Lee
Stage Manager – Rosanna Grimes
Sound Designer – Mark Webber
Lighting Designer – William Ingham
Costume Supervisor – Emma Treleaven
Graphic Design – Sarah Farrell
Vocal Coach – Ana Luderowski
Movement – Simon Jones
Photography – David Monteith-Hodge
Set Construction and Props Maker – Mary Taylor

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OutFox Productions
www. outfoxproductions.com

Author's review: 
3