The Stolen Inches

Mon 10th – Wed 26th August 2015


Benjie Beer

at 01:13 on 14th Aug 2015



With The Stolen Inches, writer and director Cordelia O’Neill has taken on some of the defining issues of our age and presented them as powerfully as any social commentator could hope to. In a dark and consuming 50 minute tragi-comedy, a seemingly pleasant, middle-class Wenlock family undergoes an autopsy that makes clear that the most successful-seeming people can often be the ones to suffer from vicious identity politics, and the immense weight of guilt that follows.

The play follows the Wenlock family as their youngest son, Simon (Ed Howells) does what surely all children have idly contemplated in the past and sues his parents for neglecting him. The story then quite entertainingly unfolds in a series of TV interviews, as the family decide to make a documentary of their story with their father’s TV production company. The use of this imaginary medium has allowed O’Neill to be flexible with her speech, with the characters explaining themselves and their relationships through both monologue with the camera and dialogue with each other.

The production never misses a beat. The acting is, frankly, superb: Neil Andrew as Bernard, the father, displays arrogance, intransigence and weakness in perfect doses; Holly Blair as Susan, the mother, is cringeworthily delightful with her nervous face and eagerness to please; Howells is endearing and bitter in equal measure as the victimised Simon; and Philip Scott-Wallace puts in an outstanding and highly intelligent performance as Sebastian, the laddish, proud and condescending older brother of Simon, who consistently outshines his younger sibling and is apparently preferred by his parents. Scott-Wallace gives us a bold and subtle presentation of Sebastian’s journey from apparent self-confidence to panicked disillusionment. It is the magnetism of the acting that allows the script to shine as it deserves to.

The drama is never overblown or melodramatic, and the humour is well placed and tactful. What is particularly impressive is that tension between the characters is shown through their attempts to get on with each other and maintain the semblance of peace, rather than the easy and tiresome approach of all-out anger. The issues of knowing oneself and the sense of being victimised by the world are explored tenderly and unexpectedly, and the fate of the characters becomes fascinating as a result.

The only thing holding this production back is the lack of variety in the dialogue, and the lack of a changing tempo. Otherwise, this is a terrifically topical and consuming exploration of identity politics.


Freya Routledge

at 09:36 on 14th Aug 2015



Having launched a Kickstarter campaign in June this year to bring The Stolen Inches to the 2015 Fringe, The Small Things Theatre Company achieved their goal just over a month later, deservingly getting this opportunity to deliver their sharp and cleverly written family drama to Edinburgh’s C Nova Studios.

The four cast members – who comprised the entire Wenlock family – were skillfully developed with interesting detail in what seemed like a short 60 minutes. With the premise of a suburban nuclear family, the production built upon perceptions of normality, drawing back layers of this seemingly uncomplicated family to reveal a dysfunctional core. Indeed, as the production’s poster suggests in its admission that ‘love doesn’t mean like, but that’s why love is hard’, familial relationships are rarely straightforward.

All four family members’ characters develop through a meta-theatrical narrative of interviews as they are filmed for a TV show. Holly Blair superbly plays passive mother Susan whose quiet neuroticism is revealed most effectively in random facts such as her dislike of crisps due to her failure to understand how they are made. Her husband Bernard (Neil Andrew) is shallow, but not too much to be insincere, revealing his penchant for name-dropping as he walks the interviewer through his ‘star-studded’ career. The twin sons, Seb (Philip Scot-Wallace) and Simon (Ed Howells), are perpetually unequal in many ways. Indeed Seb’s short height, which has become something of a family joke, is played against the arrogant laddish gusto of Scott-Wallace who puffs his chest and flashes his smile in every direction. Howell’s contrasting mildness as Simon is a clever depiction of an insubordinate sibling: his glassy eyes and nervous energy generate a quality that is endearing, but also portentous of his own potential opacity.

Writer Cordelia O’Neill did well to keep characterisation balanced; no mean feat considering that she was dealing with popular typecasts such as the self-confident lad or the passive wife. Despite the unoriginality of the play’s subject matter – sinister turbulence in a seemingly normal family unit – there was genuine depth to O’Neill’s characters, whose emotional complexities were brilliantly perceptive and never clichéd.

In the final scene, Simon suggests that people are either born to ‘question’ or ‘accept’. This statement ties together the play’s concern about the authenticity with which we present ourselves and how we should go about consolidating the gap between who people think we are and who we really are. This balance between expectation and reality was superbly demonstrated by the entire cast in a performance that had me hooked from start to finish.


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