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Sunday, 9 October 2022

REVIEW: The Caucasian Chalk Circle at The Rose Theatre Kingston

During a violent and bloody revolution. Grusha Vashnadze (Carrie Hope Fletcher) finds herself thrust into motherhood unexpectedly. The governor has been killed, his wife fled and she’s left behind the newborn baby. As time goes on and Grusha grows seemingly more attached to the boy providing for him as her own, the eventual return of the governor's wife years later demanding her child be returned to her causes turmoil, it’s up to the unconventional judge Azdak (Jonathon Slinger) to turn the justice system on its head with the help of the Chalk Circle. 

Immediately Oli Townsend’s set takes our attention, a large space with minimal on stage, metal single and bunk beds scattered across the stage allowing the cast to both use the stage during the show for its intended purpose but then use the props around them to help create the scenes and different locations. 

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.

Monday, 2 March 2020

REVIEW: The Creature at the Rose Theatre Kingston

The image of Frankenstein's monster was defined by Boris Karloff's 1931 performance as the monster but recent stage productions have tried to reinvent the story and image. The tour of Frankenstein in late 2019 adapted by Rona Munro had the original author Mary Shelley on stage narrating the story but stuck closely to the original book. Ciaran McConville takes a very different approach using the original plot of Shelley's book, as a starting point to create a very modern prometheus and then the alumni of the Rose Youth theatre, all around the age Shelley was when she wrote the original, stage this fresh version for a short run at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

The story is transposed to a modern setting in modern costume with a quirky ethereal feel with only the setting of the ship's cabin where Frankenstein meets Captain Ralf Wile (Francis Reffern) 300 miles from the coast in an ice flow has a sense of period. McConville cleverly retains the essence and structure of the original story while he weaves in many modern themes with references to Alzheimer's, Parkinson disease, Kurdish mercenaries, pestilence, refugees in Europe, terrorism, loneliness, grief, suicide and computers. The video of humanities horrors committed on others provides a strong underpinning of the underlying themes in the book. It makes for an fresh take on the story with a wonderful twist towards the end that though hinted at along the way provides an intriguing conclusion. 

Friday, 27 September 2019

REVIEW: Valued Friends at the Rose Theatre, Kingston

This revival of the 1989 comedy by Stephen Jeffery about four flat mates who have shared a basement flat in Earls Court for ten years is set in the context of the London eighties property boom which saw prices begin to rise rapidly and the impact it has on their relationship. It is rooted in its time from June 1984 to May 1987 and while it wallows in nostalgia neither their relationships nor its prediction of collapse rings true in this first revival in UK for 30 years.

The problem is immediately evident in Michael Taylor’s cavernous set with high brick walls surrounding a square revolving dais which contrasts sharply with the images in the programme from Jeffery’s own London flat of the time. This feels a huge space and none of the issues of damp, cramped rooms or poor light in a basement flat are portrayed. Worse still when we are asked to leave the auditoria at the interval so the set that it can be transformed into the beginnings of a bijou London property investment are expectations are raised for something contrasting in Act 2. Instead we get a polished floor covered by a dust sheet. If ever a play cried out for a traditional box set with a sharp decorative transformation this one requires it.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

REVIEW: Curtains at the Rose Theatre in Kingston

Sometimes drama is so uncomfortable to watch that the audience laughs out loud from embarrassment or out of discomfort at the recognition of the scene in front of them and this revival of Stephen Bill's award winning play certainly touches raw nerves. As our life expectancies increase bringing physical infirmities and the risk of dementia , many families are faced with the challenge of how to care for their elderly parents and this play explores the tensions and divisions that this situation brings. Though set in the late eighties in the days before mobile phones, the situation is even more topical and relevant today although some of the language is dated. 

Ida, or Mum as she is called by most of the characters, is wheelchair bound, in pain, partially blind and barely able to recognise her own family and is played with a touching realism by the excellent Sandra Voe. It is her 86th birthday and her family have gathered to celebrate the day in her dated dilapidated sitting room. The set design by Peter McKintosh is full of detailed period furnishings and clutter, including a glimpse of the offstage kitchen and reflects the family neglect as a result of uncertainties of what to do with their mother.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde at the Rose Theatre, Kingston

Robert Louis Stevenson's gothic novella The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde written in 1885 is a tale that most of us are familiar with as the split personality descriptions have passed into every day usage but few will have read the book. David Edgar took the core elements of the familiar story and created new female characters to fill in a backstory to Dr Jekyll with his sister Katherine and her maid Annie in contrast to the stiff male characters of the book. This revival directed by Kate Saxon starts life at the Rose Theatre Kingston before a U.K. tour and seeks to create the dark sinister world on the edge of London society that Mr Hyde inhabits. The dark set designed by Simon Higlett sets the multiple locations in slick changes but generally results in sparsely furnished rooms and together the open stage and cavernous auditorium of the Rose theatre leaves most of the tension , drama and mystery to be created by the performers themselves . Too much time is spent in Act 1 in exposition with 2 characters on a high walkway explaining the background, developing the relationship between Jekyll and his sister or debating between Jekyll, Utterson and Lanyon the workings of body and mind.

Of course the essence of the story depends on the actor playing Jekyll and Phil Daniels is an experienced actor capable of conveying the two sides of the character's personality . In this production they have chosen to present the disreputable Mr Hyde with just a change of accent , a broad Glaswegian brogue and a twisted body frame but while it is distinctive this fails to create the persona described as twenty years younger than the respectable Jekyll or to convince us that other characters can't recognise the physical similarities between the two men. However as the personality of Mr Hyde begins to take more control , Daniels shows the torment and horror of his situation and builds to a powerful and tense final scene.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Rose Theatre Kingston announces full cast for ROMEO AND JULIET

Executive Producer Jerry Gunn today announces full casting for the company’s production of Shakespeare’sRomeo + JulietSally Cookson returns to theatre to direct Sharon D Clarke (Nurse), Matt Costain(Paris/Prince), Chris Bianchi (Friar Lawrence/ Montague), Audrey Brisson (Juliet), Joseph Drake (Romeo),Laura Elphinstone (Mercutio), Felix Hayes (Tybalt) and Javier Marzan (Peter). The production opens on 4 March, with previews from 28 February, and runs until 14 March.

Chief Executive of Rose Theatre Kingston Robert O’Dowd said today, “I am thrilled to welcome Sally Cookson back to the Rose. She is a glorious collaborator – a joy to have in the building, and an extraordinary director with an incredible visual flair. Reunited with the team behind Hetty Feather, I cannot wait to see what they will bring to Romeo + Juliet.”

By turns lyrical, seductive and hot-blooded, this is the explosive story of an intense passion between the children of sworn enemies. Risking everything to be together, their tragedy is played out in a divided city where lives are ruled by secrets and fear.

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