Sadie Shimmin and Pat Starr portray the troubled protagonists in this darkly humorous, hard-hitting production of Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, ‘night, Mother, at Islington’s intimate Old Red Lion.

This two-character play tells the story of Jessie Cates, who is anxious to put everything in order before she kills herself, and her mother Thelma, who wants desperately to prevent her daughter’s violent demise. There is nothing like an impending suicide to prompt an arousing heart-to-heart, and as Jessie busies herself in an attempt to ensure her elderly mother’s needs will be met in her absence, all the possible reasons behind her shocking decision are exposed. What begins as a startlingly matter-of-fact exchange concerning Jessie’s plan rapidly evolves into a stirring debate exploring delicate family issues.

Sadie Shimmin’s Jessie exudes an unabashed, quiet determination which is beautifully countered by Pat Starr’s mounting panic as she flounders about Katharine Heath’s imaginative set. Paul Stacey’s insightful direction ensures the intensity never rises above an uncomfortable level and despite occasionally apparent second-night nerves, the actors achieve a potent chemistry, the effortless ease of their close relationship poignantly tainted by the daughter’s failing mental health and tragic insistence on self-destruction.

This production deals sensitively with difficult issues and can only gather momentum and intensify its already powerful effect as the run progresses.