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The Stolen Inches – Ophelia Theatre, London

Writer/Director: Cordelia O’Neill

Reviewer: Joe Crystal

Behind the façade of the polite tea-drinking, hobnob munching, middle-class Wenlock family in deepest Suburbia lies a dark secret…or three…in a home where “love doesn’t mean like, that’s why love is hard”.

Writer and director Cordelia O’Neill’s tight 50 minute tragic-comedy The Stolen Inches focuses on this very dysfunctional household where youngest son Simon (Tom Hurley) has grown up – but not necessarily upwards – having been overshadowed by a dominant older brother, Sebastian (Arthur MacBain). Seb is producing a TV documentary, the imaginary crew of which are addressed throughout, which involves Simon suing his parents, Bernard (Stephen Fawkes) and Susan (Holly Blair), because at 5’3”, he is considerably shorter than everyone else and accuses them of stealing his height. It can’t end well and with the aid of flashbacks to the brothers’ childhood spats, it becomes clear that the problems stem elsewhere, leading to some poignant discoveries.

Once we accept the ridiculous premise (although stranger lawsuits have surely been attempted), therein lies a fine analysis and self-exploration of the workings of the damaged mind. Hurley’s portrayal of the self-employed ladies’ shoe designer combines unrestrained youthful vigour with sweet innocence that makes Simon adorably unhinged…it’s easy to understand how he’s turned out this way given his family’s all-but rejection of his arrival as a mistake child.

MacBain’s Seb is loud, brash and overtly confident and embodies the chauvinistic rogue we all love to hate but when his, albeit predictable, reveal becomes evident, manages to convey an emotional depth to garner sympathy and it’s not difficult to see how this character developed when Fawkes, as the opinionated father conveys his politically incorrect thoughts through a string of undiplomatic words and deeds.

Blair’s mother, however, is a masterclass in repressive stoicism, someone whose internal carpet must surely bulge from having swept up all the angst that any minute is likely to explode but for the sake of keeping up appearances, bubbles below the surface. A particularly moving speech about the child she knew but never had was controlled beautifully. O’Neill makes good use of the intimate space and has paid great attention to detail in using the set and props to give a homely yet claustrophobic feel to the proceedings. This is a venue that has great potential despite its limitations of shape, size and capacity.

Runs until 13thJune

Writer/Director: Cordelia O’Neill Reviewer: Joe Crystal Behind the façade of the polite tea-drinking, hobnob munching, middle-class Wenlock family in deepest Suburbia lies a dark secret…or three…in a home where “love doesn’t mean like, that’s why love is hard”. Writer and director Cordelia O’Neill’s tight 50 minute tragic-comedy The Stolen Inches focuses on this very dysfunctional household where youngest son Simon (Tom Hurley) has grown up – but not necessarily upwards – having been overshadowed by a dominant older brother, Sebastian (Arthur MacBain). Seb is producing a TV documentary, the imaginary crew of which are addressed throughout, which involves Simon suing…

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