American playwright Bekah Brunstetter imaginatively links a death-row elephant suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with a born again Baptist virgin in her intriguingly titled new play, and designer Libby Watson rises magnificently to the challenge, combining an eau-de-nil pachyderm “prison” with a Sunday school classroom, a couple of bedrooms and a gym.

Pacing upstage is Harold, a rumbling, six-year-old orphan elephant (convincingly played by a blank-eyed James Russell who must have spent most of the rehearsal period observing at the zoo). He’s been sentenced to public execution for goring a woman to death, and animal psychologist Vandalla (Sheena Patel with a white coat, a sympathetic manner and a grant that gives her the time to devote to the recalcitrant creature) is trying desperately to understand what’s going on in his troubled head. 

In another continent, 31-year-old Miss Lilly teaches Sunday school, talks to God and tends the potted plants while dreaming of being deflowered by Hugh Grant. When Will Kemp’s handsome, grieving South African widower Richard (known as Dick) comes to collect his disruptive 10-year-old son from class, it seems as though her prayers have been answered.

Brunstetter draws parallels between the damaged boy (Milo Rechler) and the damaged beast, and highlights the conflicting crossover of the needs of Lilly and Dick, of humans and animals. Both strands of this touching comedy lose their way towards the end, but there’s enough emotional honesty and quirky humour to make Lily Bevan’s production well worth a visit, and Lorna Beckett gives an irresistible performance as the yearning Lilly who thinks she’s found happiness but, when the inevitable happens, loses her hotline to God.

Finborough, Finborough Road,  SW10  9ED 
Tube: Earl’s Court  
0844 847 1652
Until 10th July