Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

A Miracle

Molly Davies
Young Writers Festival
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
(2009)

Production photo

We all know that the past is another country but if Molly Davies is to be believed, so is her native Norfolk, where the locals specialise in a rare brand of low self-esteem.

A rural spot in this flat county is the home of Amy, portrayed with great empathy by the excellent Kate O'Flynn.

Her life aspires to be a mess, with social workers keeping the mentally limited girl at a distance from Kara, the baby daughter whom she struggles to love. Work is not much fun either, spending every day helping to make chicken nuggets.

A little light is shone on to this dreary existence by the return of the equally slow-speaking and -witted Gary, played by Russell Tovey. He is on home leave from his job as cannon fodder in an unnamed war zone, suffering from the usual stresses but more. Even drugs cannot allow him to forget terrible deaths but also the sheer dullness of home and a history of abuse at the hands of a man who has now lost all self-respect.

The pair are connected as Amy's Nan (Sorcha Cusack) used to skivvy for Gerard Horan as Gary's Dad. By now though, the tables have turned. The once wealthy man has lost it all, while the grounded older woman retains pride as she looks after little Kara and tries to dispense folk wisdom to her feckless granddaughter.

The key choice in the 75 minute drama, tightly directed by Lyndsey Turner, lies with Amy. She is forced to decide whether to run away from her responsibilities in a vain search for a love that will almost certainly prove to be an illusion or grow up.

Molly Davies keeps up the Court's record of discovering and presenting highly promising talent in its Young Writing Festivals, following Alia Bano's Shades with a play that could hardly show young Britons from a more distant milieu.

A Miracle may be grim at times but its portrait of life on the farm and the writer's rare ability to create believable dialogue and situations suggests that it might herald the launch of a long and fruitful career in the theatre.

Playing until 21 March

Reviewer: Philip Fisher