Of the new-season offerings I’ve seen at Chichester this year, Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls is the most satisfying.
The plot is thin: best friends go to school, get expelled from school, go to Dublin; fall out; re-best-friend one another and go to London.
Most impressive is the universal quality of the acting here – and the highest on the acting-honours list is newcomer Grace Moloney in the leading role, Kate.
Miss Moloney was enticed from her last term at drama-school by this part, but if there’s any justice, her failure to graduate will in no way affect her career. This girl is very good indeed.
She’s ably supported by Genevieve Hulme-Beaman as the Machiavellian Baba, the best-friend-you-could-do-without, and, particularly, Rachel Atkins milking every ounce of comedy as the girls’ Germanic landlady, Joanna.
Kate’s difficult relationship with her drunken father is played with vicious honesty by Moloney and Colm Gormley. The actual violence – though short-lived – is brutal, shocking, visceral and convincing, with one particularly vicious slap round the face causing intakes of breath near me in the audience.
The ensemble work is excellent – sharp and slickly choreographed – and, despite the feather-weight plot, it’s a pleasingly theatrical evening.