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The cast of Molly at Pleasance Courtyard. Photo: Alex Harvey-Brown The cast of Molly at Pleasance Courtyard. Photo: Alex Harvey-Brown
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Like a surreal This Is Your Life, four cheery presenters warm up the crowd in preparation for the imminent arrival of Molly. It is her big night, we are assured, we are all here to help her… if, they add ominously, she wants us to. As her name lights up in big letters at the back, a digital clock starts to roll.

Molly does turn up, dishevelled and uncertain of her bearings. She cannot remember what has just happened to her – or can she? What unravels is a cat and mouse game around Molly’s memories. As the clock ticks through her life, she is coaxed and cajoled into reliving pivotal moments from her childhood onwards, where tiny decisions become major steps in her descent into the dark side.

With Lizzie Clarke as Molly at their centre, this impressive ensemble dishes out role after role between them – evolving key figures in Molly’s life from school kids to teenagers to adults, while conveying everything from comedy to sympathy to the genuinely shocking. There is a lot to pack in and Andrew Whyment’s spot-on direction keeps both pace and emotions zipping along.

Unusually for a stage play, three writers are on board for this – Lee Anderson, Adam Foster and Whyment himself – but rather than it being a case of too many cooks it is mostly successful, and it is hard to spot the joins. Indeed, the progressions of Molly’s life become all the more realistic through the subtle shifts in gear as her language changes with her rites of passage, a clear three-acter unfolding as she grows up.

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Impressive ensemble charts a woman’s descent into the dark side
Nick Awde
Nick Awde is the co-editor of The Stage’s international section and general secretary of the new UK Centre of the International Theatre Institute