There’s something immediately arresting about Stella, written and directed by David Tuffnell, and brought here by Teeside’s Less Is More Productions. Soporific sea sounds set the tone and three 1960s factory girls (two young women and an old ‘un) disembark a charabanc at Giant’s Causeway on a work trip away. It’s a time-and-space specific, but non-obvious set up that grabs the interest, further heightened when we’re able to immediately detect a certain atmosphere between them.
Stella (Laura Lonsdale) secretes a letter in her handbag as the others join her at the water’s edge. Doreen (Victoria Holtom) is irritable and irked at something. The older woman, Jean (Doreen Frankland), is distant and mono-syllabic in a way that suggests at least mental distress, perhaps even dementia; it’s never quite clear. Both younger women seem protective of the older lady, Doreen with a lot less patience and a degree of patronising.
And those dynamics hold as we learn some of their back story. It would spoil the gradual unravelling to reveal too much of this, but suffice to say the play touches on grief, romance, and the 60s’ changing attitudes to sex. The two younger women are nicely positioned as friends whose attitudes differ even as their predicaments intersect to some extent.