Review: Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until April 20. Box office: 01723 370541 or at

IF you missed Mark Babych's version at Hull Truck Theatre in February 2016, Chinese Elvis is back in a Yorkshire building this spring.

As with Patrick Connellan's design in Hull, Carla Goodman has constructed a domed bird's cage for Charlotte Jones's comical but poignant 1999 drama , wherein everyone is looking for an escape, or a flight of fancy, a transformation, in search of love and fulfilment.

Imagine a cross between Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House and Jim Cartwright's The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, and you have the spirit of Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis.

Now presented by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in tandem with the New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme, it began life as Jones's first proper commission for the Bolton Octagon.

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Make every third line funny, came the Octagon's request, but that would have constrained its construction to pure farce. Instead, Jones's world is darker by far, albeit with farce occupying its sunnier uplands.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Jones has filled her cage/stage with oddballs. Mother Josie Botting (Jemma Churchill) is a dominatrix of fading allure and diminishing enthusiasm as her 50th birthday party approaches, finding it harder to whip herself into shape mentally, let alone whip her clientele.

Her business HQ is her Bolton living room, from where Brenda-Marie (Zara Jayne), her daughter with learning difficulties, takes flight, either disappearing into her tent cocoon outside or imagining her ice-skating triumphs on a par with Torvill and Dean, mock BBC commentary and all.

In a tremendous performance by Jayne - the first diabled actress to perform this role - Brenda-Marie has no filter, speaking exactly as she finds, a refreshing frankness denied most of us but utterly joyous and liberating in its candour here.

Martha (Shelley Atkinson), Josie's devoutly religious, buttoned-up Irish cleaner, is in the grip of OCD, constantly counting in multiples of fives.

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Josie's most loyal client, dry-cleaning boss Lionel (Eamonn Riley), who likes wearing a maid's clothes, wants Josie's birthday to go with a swing, Catastrophe cocktails et al.

Ah, but where's the Chinese Elvis of the title? Here he comes, sideburned and slim and somewhat nervous, booked for one night with Josie by Lionel. Enter Timothy Wong (Jun Hwang), whose Elvis act is a novice novelty, but has an alchemical effect on those around him.

Jones has a brilliant sense of timing as well as drama, revelling in sudden revelations, especially the jolt of an unexpected guest (Rachael Henley, late of Mikron and Badapple shows) just before the interval.

At first she has the opposite impact to Chinese Elvis, but she too is stymied by her foibles, countered by a desire for something more. One by one, Jones's "joyous comedy of transformation" taps into everyone's potential for change in a deeply funny, deeply moving play, suffused with an emboldened heart, a heap of hope and a bunch of Elvis songs.

Director Gemma Fairlie and her fab cast deliver bold, brassy but classy comedy that is all the better for the emotional clout of the tragedy always nipping at the ankles.