Iris, Live Theatre, Newcastle

JULIE and Ruby are sisters coming to terms with the death of their formidable mother, Iris, who still manages to control their lives from beyond the grave. On the night of the funeral, driving instructor Julie gets off with Gerry, a crime scene cleaner and part time wedding photographer.

Written by Alison Carr, the talented winner of the 2013 40th Anniversary Live Theatre Bursary, whose voice is strong and full of a refreshingly honest caustic humour Carr certainly knows how to create characters, peppering the story of ordinary people with the observation skills of a psychologist. This fast-moving play is set in an ordinary living room with a couple of walls covered with mother’s collection of mirrors, which was bit uncomfortable for me as they reflected the lighting right back into my eyes. Not that it spoiled anything but I can’t say more or I’d spoil the plot, save to say its eye-wateringly good.

Katy Cavanagh (Julie Carp from Coronation Street) is the delightfully dislikeable clean-freak Julie whose conviction and sincerity is as laudable as her perfect comedy timing. Love lost Gerry can’t seem to get anything right; a beautifully understated performance from Joe Caffrey. Sam Neale makes the tragedy of being Ruby a joy to behold. A totally believable, exceptional performance from this young actress. This is a play full of twists and turns, a cul-de-sac of guilt that explores the real life of damaged people and how they cope, or fail to cope with life’s trials and tribulations.

* Runs until April 30. Box Office: 0191-232-1232 or

Helen Brown