The play charts the lives of three different generations of the same family, taking in unexpected pregnancies, the death of a loved one and the blooming of new relationships.
The three women never interact, instead they speak in monologues, a series of bittersweet vignettes.
The way Murphy has structurd the piece, having the three women address the audience rather than each other, can feel limiting. But her ability to build dramatic tension and to write scenes full of wry humour is clear.
It helps that the play is blessed with a sterling trio of performances. This is very much an actor’s piece, full of emotional highs and lows. As grandmother Kay, Anita Reeves sparkles; her character gets the funniest lines and her monologues veer from the hilarious to the heartrending. Her pain as she recounts her loss is palpable, yet Reeves never overplays it.
Amelia Crowley, as Kay’s daughter Lorraine, also impresses, bringing out a real sense of conflict within the character; Lorraine is a worn-down and hard done by woman who really just wants to be loved by a good man and Crowley’s delivery is tinged with genuine melancholy.
Sarah Greene is, for the most part, beautiful and believable as the teenage Amber. She brings a real sense of pathos to her character’s rawer moments, though her tendency to over-enunciate and over-emphasise detracts from the power of her performance.
Little Gem is not a groundbreaking piece of writing, nor is it particularly enthralling, but it is a well-played and nicely nuanced work. Conventional and even a little plodding in the way it is presented, it nonetheless leaves its audience a little bit heartbroken, if also somewhat weary.