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Thursday, 9 September 2021

REVIEW: Leopards at the Rose Theatre, Kingston

It is always exciting to see a premiere of a new play especially one that promises to be a "highly charged thriller” and carries a pre-show warning to not reveal the ending as to not spoil it for anyone yet to see it. It also carries a warning that it contains some themes that audience members may find distressing and although many shows now carry this generic warning, this one does contain language that many people do find uncomfortable and offensive. The writer Alys Metcalf clearly feels she has a lot to say about some of the high-profile issues of today and gives her leading protagonist Niala speeches about feminism, green environment and global sustainability, racism, mental health, Celebrity status, grief and sexual consent. In fact, she packs so many issues, wildly swinging from one to another, into the ninety-minute play that it rather detracts from the central storyline and makes it hard to believe the characters at all.

Fundamentally this two-hander seeks to be a thriller where the outcome and motivation of the characters are uncertain until the ending. Yet when Niala meets Ben at a London hotel and he immediately says she looks familiar to him, as does the room they are in, you don’t have to be Poirot to work out what the secret may be. Although there are one or two twists in the story as their evening progresses, the 'mystery' of why they are meeting and what each hopes to achieve from the meeting never quite lives up to the promotional promise. It might have felt more real if he had been a high-profile politician or celebrity film star and she a rising investigative media journalist who starts each interview with “how do you feel?”, at least we are familiar with the sort.
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