THEATRE REVIEW: Marjorie Prime starring Anne Reid, Nancy Carroll, Tony Jayawardena & Richard Fleeshman at the Menier Chocolate Factory

By Aline Mahrud


WHEN?: Saturday 1 April, running to 6 May 2023 RUNTIME: 85 minutes (no interval)

In the week when we are mourning the loss of 67-year-old Paul O’Grady this new play about memory, loss and grieving starring Anne Reid (pictured right) feels like appropriate viewing.

  • Read on for reasons including how director Dominic Dromgoole brings the best out of Reid

Playwright Jordan Harrison has written for Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black and Marjorie Prime was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

87-year-old Reid (A Woman Of No Importance, Vaudeville Theatre) plays Marjorie who has a computer-programmed, pixel-generated companion called Walter Prime who resembles her late husband in his youth and has his memories.

Nancy Carroll (Young Marx, Bridge Theatre) plays Marjorie’s daughter Tess and is sceptical of the value of Walter Prime and later we learn of her brother’s death and how it made her relationship with Marjorie more difficult.

Tess’ husband Jon is played by Tony Jayawardena as an optimist and peacemaker between Marjorie and his wife. He embellishes the stories he tells Richard Fleeshman’s (Company, Gielgud Theatre) eerily robotic Walter Prime and they serve to make Marjorie happier.

The value of the Primes and artificial intelligence is debated throughout the piece with the conclusion that they can only provide a mirror of the information it is given even if that data is incorrect.

It’s phenomenal to see Reid still performing and her acting is relaxed, naturalistic and totally in keeping with the material she is conveying.

Particularly striking is Carroll’s performance with some difficult, dark material to explore and a transformation which is executed beautifully and informs her husband’s conclusions about the ultimate limitations of AI.

As a piece of theatre, Marjorie Prime is quiet, thoughtful and occasionally funny but it did feel too long despite its one act structure.

Marvellous though to appreciate Reid and what a brilliant character actress she is and her reunion with director Dominic Dromgoole (A Woman Of No Importance, Vaudeville) who clearly knows how to bring the best out of her.

  • Main picture via Facebook courtesy Menier Chocolate Factory Tickets
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