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Solace of the Road

A scene from Solace of the Road at Derby Theatre. Photo: Robert Day

Derby Theatre is on a high with its entry this year into Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, and the world premiere of Mike Kenny’s play about a young girl in care gets a rousing reception that is well deserved. It’s a road trip with a difference as Holly Hogan dons the emboldening blonde wig that transforms her into Solace, leaves her well-meaning foster parents and tries to travel to Ireland in search of her real mother.

Rebecca Ryan gives an artless and engaging performance as a teenager with more reason than most to be mixed up and manipulative, and who embellishes her own life story as the need arises. Four of the six-strong cast play everyone she meets, from her fellow residents in the children’s home to her brutal and feckless birth parents. There are some wicked cameos, including the kindly lorry driver, Vegan Phil, and the galumphing Oxford student, Chloe, who reads Tacitus on the bus.

There’s an impishness and playfulness to the script, best illustrated in the encounters Solace has in her head with the loathed Jane Eyre. But these don’t mask the serious issues that beset children in care or evade the brutality of the situations they have encountered. The road is full of dangers and potential predators – but there are good people too. Sensitively directed by Sarah Brigham, it’s fast-moving and seamlessly staged on Barney George’s versatile and deceptively simple set, full of surprises and with a quirky use of car doors to evoke the road and ferry.

Dates: February 27-March 14, PN March 2

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Fast-moving, engaging and insightful – a disarming portrait of a child in care