The Stolen Inches

The Small Things Theatre Company's The Stolen Inches brilliantly puts family relationships under a microscope. It follows Simon Wenlock, a short, 24 year old shoe designer, as he decides to sue his parents for bringing him up poorly. This inevitably leads to clashes, particularly as his favoured, taller twin brother Sebastian is producing a reality documentary about the supposedly happy family at the same time, designed to kick start his own career.

This play’s real brilliance though, is the level of authenticity brought to it's subject matter.

Despite a festival appropriate length of a mere hour, Cordelia O'Neill’s first full length play manages to explore, in some depth, issues relating to masculinity, favouritism, parenthood, societal norms and the media's expanded role in our lives, without these explorations ever becoming contrived or try-hard. It is delightfully complex in theme and message, and manages to find the sweet spot that a good deal of theatre is often seeking - we leave the auditorium full of thoughts and questions.

The cast deserve a great deal of credit for this. It's difficult to pick a stand out performer from the four, Ed Howells, Holly Blair, Neil Andrew and Phillip Scott-Wallace - all of them perform with excellent levels of character depth and degrees of emotion. The mix of scene styles - some played as if to a documentary camera and others when this camera is off - is brilliant in that it allows us to see the contrast between the phony, idealised behavior of all the characters with their truthful feelings and thoughts, and the cast do this so well. Scott-Wallace’s Sebastian is both the golden boy and the arrogant man about town, Howell’s Simon both the hurt, excluded victim and the self-righteous revenge seeker, who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens.

The script is well reasoned, natural and contains both moments of real humour and real emotion. On a basic level too, it is extremely well acted, with exactly the right levels of pace, clarity and energy. The standard is notably high.

Perhaps it's only weakness is the jarring fact that the actual court case proceedings remain completely unexplored besides a few words between Simon and Sebastian. The making of the documentary is the main focus, and you can't help but feel that the company has missed the opportunity to stage some potentially excellent scenes in this different environment.

This play’s real brilliance though, is the level of authenticity brought to it's subject matter. It's murky. We begin feeling sure of who the victim is in this tale, and as the narrative progresses this surety is eroded. Who shapes our identities and who's responsible for our problems? As with most families, there are two sides to this story. Perhaps there are four or five.

Reviews by Andrew Forbes

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The Blurb

Simon’s family are perfect but Simon doesn’t fit in. Who is to blame? Himself, his family, Starbucks? Under the glare of the TV cameras, Simon decides to do the impossible, and take his family to court. Years of neglect from them had repercussions in every part of his life and a TV documentary gives Simon the perfect opportunity to get his answers. Interviews lead to emotional revelations and secrets being unearthed, but will Simon find out who is to blame for the stolen inches?