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Third Finger, Left Hand

  • Theatre, West End
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

It may take its title from a Martha Reeves and The Vandellas song about bagging your man, but Dermot Canavan’s funny and moving two-hander, in which a pair of adult sisters relive their childhood on the ’70s Northern Soul scene, is about a deeper bond than marriage.

With blonde hair that escapes its clip as regularly as she slips her curfew, Imogen Stubbs’s Niamh is the life-grabbing older sister. A bold explorer, she returns to the family sitting room with news of boys, periods and elaborate dance routines learnt in talc-covered halls.

Amanda Daniels’s Grace is her devoted younger playmate, who watches apprehensively as the two-year gap between them yawns into a chasm. Left behind when Niamh makes a break for Wigan Casino, Grace is the sitting-target for their father’s violent, misdirected rage.

This could have been a slightly hackneyed ’70s nostalgia-fest, with some well-worn plot devices, a Motown soundtrack and references to Charlie, ‘Colditz’ and Fray Bentos tinned pies. But the Preston-born Canavan has both a keen ear for the magical promise of the everyday, and the cadences of his own sisters’ relationship to draw on.

Grace and Niamh’s recollections are as enthusiastically and imperfectly synchronised as their dancing. Under Ian Talbot’s direction, Daniels reveals a gift for physical humour and Stubbs, a northern voice that sounds like the product of decades in working men’s clubs rather than weeks in the rehearsal room. There’s a pure joy to be had in watching two interesting parts for women inhabited by two brilliant actresses with such appreciative and collaborative force. Bella Todd


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