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Theatre Review: The Effects of Gamma Rays on the Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

25 October 16 words: Lucy Manning

The Lace Market Theatre plays home to Paul Zindel's all-female play...

image: Grace Eden

Set in a cluttered, dark and dingy apartment in 1983 Staten Island, The Effect of Gamma Rays… tells the story of Beatrice Hunsdorfer – an alcoholic woman struggling with mental health issues and motherhood. Her two daughters – the bold, brazen and epileptic Ruth, and intelligent yet introverted Tillie – are left to fend for themselves under the reign of their dysfunctional mother.

Emily Ross, playing the exceptionally bright yet downtrodden Tillie, gives a stunning performance. Ross completely transforms into Matilda, with a sensitive and detailed delivery, presenting us with a fully-formed vision of both the outward timidness and internal strength of her character. With such a mature, polished and professional performance, Emily gave me goosebumps more than once.

Beatrice’s other daughter, Ruth Hunsdorfer, is played by Eve Gordon. Ms Gordon is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise melancholy production, confidently and accurately portraying the gutsy, flirtatious teenager. It’d be easy to play Ruth as a 2D character – all flounce and no substance, kind of thing – but Eve is successful in creating an equally bolshy yet vulnerable young girl. Top marks for a convincing epileptic fit, too.

Chloe Senior faced a tough job in the role of the narcissistic mother, Beatrice Hunsdorfer. She gave a strong performance, holding her own against the more likeable qualities of the other characters, and spoke for the majority of the play – a mean feat. However, there’s room for slightly more variation in her speech. Beatrice’s drunken ramblings seemed to be given too much weight, with each line seeming to hold equal importance, though I suspect this delivery lies in the director’s interpretation of the script.

As the play progresses, it would be nice to see an air of playfulness within the mother – particularly when she’s taunting the old woman in her care. The character’s dialogue is often more childish than her actual children’s, so to see Ms Senior playing more with her speeches would be the cherry on the cake.

There are a few other directorial glitches to be addressed as the run continues. In general, the production could have been pacier, and music wouldn’t go amiss during scene changes to punctuate the action. The use of a thrust stage is unnecessary as the action happens in an end-on setting, so I would consider re-arranging the seating to prevent any cricked necks in the audience.

It’s an absolute gem of a play, with a gift of a script for female actors, with fully-formed characters sadly still a rarity for young women. It’ll be exciting to see how the production develops throughout the run.

Keep up with some of the freshest local talent to come out of Notts, and get yourselves down.

The Effects of Gamma Rays on the Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds is on at The Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 29 October.

The Lace Market Theatre website

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