by David Tuffnell

Greetings from The Giant's Causeway, Spring 1967... it's the annual social club trip for a group of knicker factory workers from industrial Middlesbrough, busy enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Northern Ireland.

This trip is different though, it's more of a journey... Surrounded by the sounds of the sea and the spray, stories and secrets are stumbled upon. This is a reconnecting, to the earth and each other – perhaps Stella, Jean and Doreen have much more in common than just knicker elastic?
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Cast & Crew

Written & Directed by: David Tuffnell
Produced by: less is MORE

Stella: Laura Lonsdale
Jean:  Doreen Frankland
Doreen: Victoria Holtom

In conjunction with PQA Venues,
less is MORE proudly presents


Friday 30th July  - Middlesborugh Preview
August 3rd - 16th - Edinburgh Fringe
Fringe Guru:

Stella is the story of three Northern Irish women who work at a knicker-making factory in the 1960s. On their annual social trip, Stella, Doreen and Jean break off from their group for about an hour, to go get some fresh air and sit on the Giant’s Causeway.
Stella is a show about friendship and the things that bind us together, but also the details that allow us to drift apart. The three girls are all very different in nature, with the overall result that their collective impact is big, and their appeal reaches to a wide audience.
Laura Lonsdale does a great job as Stella, but she is slightly overshadowed by Victoria Holstom’s Doreen.

Holtom is fantastic, and in particular her demeanour and accent are on point. The characters go through a growing-up of sorts as secrets are revealed, and the very trust that has kept them friends for such a long time is shaken. A number of issues pertinent in the 1960s are brought up and handled well.

At times, however, the script's many metaphors and euphemisms go too far, becoming dense. There is a fine balance to be struck between avoiding being in-your-face obvious, and allowing the audience to clearly understand what is going on. The script lets the actors down a couple of times on this point.

The ending feels abrupt too; I wasn’t sure if all the loose threads were tied up at the conclusion. A bit more resolution would have worked better for me.

But the strong performances mean it's worth keeping an eye out for more shows from the Less Is MORE company. And as a side note, this production is running at one of the newest venues at the Fringe – which, as well as being very nice, has the most impressive ceiling and chandeliers. So don’t forget to glance up!
The Wee Review

There’s something immediately arresting about Stella, written and directed by David Tuffnell, and brought here by Teeside’s Less Is More Productions. Soporific sea sounds set the tone and three 1960s factory girls (two young women and an old ‘un) disembark a charabanc at Giant’s Causeway on a work trip away. It’s a time-and-space specific, but non-obvious set up that grabs the interest, further heightened when we’re able to immediately detect a certain atmosphere between them.
Stella (Laura Lonsdale) secretes a letter in her handbag as the others join her at the water’s edge. Doreen (Victoria Holtom) is irritable and irked at something. The older woman, Jean (Doreen Frankland), is distant and mono-syllabic in a way that suggests at least mental distress, perhaps even dementia; it’s never quite clear. Both younger women seem protective of the older lady, Doreen with a lot less patience and a degree of patronising.

And those dynamics hold as we learn some of their back story. It would spoil the gradual unravelling to reveal too much of this, but suffice to say the play touches on grief, romance, and the 60s’ changing attitudes to sex. The two younger women are nicely positioned as friends whose attitudes differ even as their predicaments intersect to some extent.

Holtom is particularly impressive, channelling the raw spirit and attitude of the kitchen-sink era, with none of the chintzy nostalgia that these kind of roles have often been imbued with since. Lonsdale’s a nice contrast in the title role, but has been given some whimsical lines which lend themselves to staginess and fit oddly in the context of the piece. Frankland’s mono-syllabism is harder to get a hold on, though there’s a tragedy to her which is very effective, particularly when the other two fuss over her. She gets a genuinely eye-dampening moment, and you fear/hope that the story may end up dumping you off an emotional cliff into a sea of blubbering. That doesn’t quite happen, with an ending that, while satisfying, has scope for a second act or sequel.

Perhaps Less Is More is a statement of intent as well as the company name. There’s some well-crafted dynamics at play with these characters that tantalise rather than fully resolve. Within the confines of this hour, Stella’s flights of fancy distract and Jean’s inaccessible distance poses questions. It’s a beautifully atmospheric piece that somehow still keeps you at arm’s length.

Customer Reviews:

Kevin Marchand:
Last chance today to catch a real gem. 3 hander, tight emotional with great interplay between the three.. Excellently produced in the space Just what the fringe is about

Teresa Groves:
An intimate, raw sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking show giving you a snapshot into the lives of three very different women each facing life changing challenges. You will be drawn in by the pace and emotion of the piece and the commitment of the three strong female actors in an intimate setting.

Tony Insall:
Wow what a fantastic show. A roller coaster of emotion which had me in tears, of both laughter and sadness.
Extremely well written and clearly well directed. Hats off to David for coming up with such a powerful show.
The all female cast were terrific and well cast as they appeared to truly warm to each other and feed off each other throughout. Fantastic performances which took you into their hearts and souls.
A great venue with a lovely intimate feel.
A real must see for anybody visiting the fringe.
I left awaiting the sequel!

Heather Ridley:
Shows like Stella are the reason I love the fringe. You don’t get experiences like this elsewhere. This gem of a show is beautifully written and acted. The venu is such an intimate space that you are immediately pulled into the story and its characters. This show is a must-see!

Craig Goult:
Stella is an excellent piece of writing superbly performed by the all female cast of 3. The dialogue is brim full of chatter, emotion and intensity; burning through all manner of subjects from love and loss, to cheese and pickle sandwiches. All interwoven with colloquial Teesside wit and 1960's charm. The intimate setting only adds to the immersive nature of the play. Well worth seeing.

Amy Evans:
A powerful piece of theatre. Humour & drama are delicately balanced to produce a show that will having you laughing one minute & holding back a tear the next.
Well worth a watch!

  1. Doreen Frankland
    Doreen Frankland
  2. Laura Lonsdale
    Laura Lonsdale
  3. Victoria Holtom
    Victoria Holtom