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Ivy Tiller: Vicar's Daughter, Squirrel Killer - Review

Part of me feels that the best part of "Ivy Tiller: Vicar's Daughter, Squirrel Killer" is the title. The rest of the play just never really gets going.

The poster for the play

The play is part of the RSC's Mischief Festival, which celebrates new writing, in this case a new play by playwright Bea Roberts. The play tells the story of Ivy Tiller (Jenny Rainsford), whose mission in life is preserving the red squirrels. How does she do this? By killing the grey squirrels, of course! The reasons for this are all explained upfront (grey squirrels pass on disease to the red squirrels), and the play wastes no time in establishing Ivy's character and motivation. Rainsford is superb as Tiller, giving a natural, believable performance as a woman who struggles in social situations and has a very specific view of the world.

Ivy is visited by her cousin Gary (Nathan McMullen), who has just come out of prison and seems determined to try to lead Ivy astray, whilst also questioning her motives for hunting the squirrels. The story kicks into gear when the Red Squirrel Action Force decides to disband, and Ivy decides to take matters into her own hands.

Reece (Alex Bhat) and Ivy (Jenny Rainsford) prepare to hunt some squirrels

I won't spoil the rest of the story, but it's fair to say that the play left me feeling a little bit like... "is that it?" The tension slowly builds throughout, with Ivy becoming more and more desperate in her hunt for a purpose, whilst also facing her formidable father (Tim Treloar, who, as well as the vicar, played a variety of roles). But just when things start to get interesting, the play ends! I wanted to see Ivy go even further, to explore more of her relationship with her dad, see her dealing with the death of her mother. In the end, the play feels fairly anticlimactic, with a twist in the final moments that I saw coming a mile off.

That's not to say that the play is 'bad'. I enjoyed it whilst it was happening. It was just afterwards that I felt a little let down. The characters are all brilliantly realised and relatable - the play also features Jade Ogugua as primary school teacher Jade, Alex Bhat as fellow squirrel activist Reece and Anna Andresen in a range of roles. The music and the set were great, the story was engaging and kept my interest.

I just wish there had been more.

'Ivy Tiller: Vicar's Daughter, Squirrel Killer' plays at The Other Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon until 5th November.

Tom Morley, October 2022

Rosie Red the Red Squirrel turns up to celebrate the Platty Jubes


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