‘IT’S just bricks, mortar and turf.’

So says one of the characters of the ancient dwelling at the centre of a new play, The Croft, presently showing at Darlington Hippodrome.

But, of course, it’s more than that.

Much more – as soon becomes obvious when the history of events which have taken place in the titular croft over 150 years start seeping though the walls of the seen-better-days property.

The story revolves around three central characters – all of them strong-willed females who appear to find a sense of belonging within the walls of the building situated in a remote and wild corner of the Scottish Highlands.

The scenes shift back and forth between the present day, the recent past and the 19th Century.

We meet Laura ( Lucy Doyle) returning to the home she grew up in as a child for a romantic getaway with her older lover Suzanne (Caroline Harker).

Skip back a generation and we’re introduced to Laura’ mother, Ruth (Harker again), struggling to cope with a devastating illness and the break up of her marriage.

Transported back to 1870 – and the time of the Highland clearances – we find Enid (Gwen Taylor), a courageous elderly woman determined to stay in her own home under enormous pressure to leave.

The uncertain fate of Enid and Eilene (Doyle again), the young girl she has take in, are hinted at throughout the play, until all becomes clear in a surprising and shocking reveal.

The performances are superb. Doyle is energetic and convincing as both Laura and Eilene, Harker switches effortlessly between her dual roles and Taylor’s approach is full of gusto.

They are ably supported by the male cast – Simon Roberts and Drew Cain, who provides most of the subtle comic touches as the faithful ghillie David.

Themes of family relationships, sexuality and mortality are all explored and the dialogue in the ambitious first-time script, from writer Ali Milles, never lets up.

There is more than a hint of the supernatural, with the croft at times acting like a haunted house with flickering lights, a failing generator and glimpses of faces in the windows.

The action all takes place on a single set - a single room of the croft in question.

If the intention was to capture the isolation and claustrophobia that anyone who has ever stayed in such a place, then it succeeds superbly – as does the play as a whole which is highly satisfying and highly recommended.

Andrew White

l The Croft is on at Darlington Hippodrome until Saturday, February 15. For more details, visit https://www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk/whats-on/the-croft/