Mississippi yearning

Mississippi, by Brian Mitchell and Louise Law, a Pulse Fringe Festival rehearsed reading at St Nicholas Centre, Ipswich, June 2.

Lynne Mortimer

Mississippi, by Brian Mitchell and Louise Law, a Pulse Fringe Festival rehearsed reading at St Nicholas Centre, Ipswich, June 2.

Rehearsed readings can be a joy.

Like reading a good book, you can imagine the setting but you get the characters fully formed.

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The deep south of the title in this tender, enchantingly funny and sad piece turns out to be Worthing, in Sussex, (well, it's south of Ipswich) where the Mississippi restaurant does a brisk trade in cocktails and burgers.

On this particular day, Helena is in charge and she would have been fine if first her needy mother hadn't shown up, followed by her petulant father and spoiled brat of a sister.

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If they hadn't arrived unannounced, Helena would have been able to phone through the meat order and been ready for the large hen party from eastern Europe.

But what do you do when you're 19 but you're the only adult in the family? Your mother, Sophia, is too damaged and frightened to grow up and your father was a monk until he met your mum.

Helena, played by the remarkably talented Laura Corbett, is the sensible one. She knows her mum is asking for trouble by joining a financier on his yacht for a party weekend but her mum is too naive and self-obsessed to spot the obvious.

Dad, John, is beside himself, believing his wife is deliberately cheating on him. As he throws his tantrum, he punctuates two-syllabled words with an adjectival four-letter one.

But while Helena is being subjected to her parents' meltdown, she is quietly dissolving and you wonder who is going to be there for her.

Will Nick, the waiter who likes curvy women, turn out to be her knight in shining armour or just a ship that passes in the night?

Brian Mitchell and Louise Law's well-crafted script balances the anguish with some great comic lines.

When accusing his wife, Helena's dad delivers his proof: “She shaved her bikini line, Helena, She means business,” in hilarious despair.

Duncan Henderson's John is a manic tour-de-force while I can't have been the only person in the audience who could have cheerfully slapped Rachel Blackman's breathtakingly selfish Sophia.

Lynne Mortimer

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