Posts Tagged ‘Rose Theatre’

A Chaste Maid In Cheapside, Rose Bankside 5 March

March 6, 2015


The box office still had a poster up advertising ‘A Trick To Catch The Old One’ from about a year ago, and this production inhabited the same kind of territory with music and costumes suggesting a generic 1950s. Unfortunately, rather too much had been removed from the original text for the remainder to be viable–one kept on waiting for Yellowhammer’s son Tim and the Welsh ‘heiress’ to appear, and large amounts of satire on contemporary mores were omitted, along with the corresponding characters.  Rather than fitting into a range of satirical types, Allwit the professionally complaisant husband was left like a frozen minor planet vainly orbiting a remote and faded star.

It was not clear–at least to me–that Moll Yellowhammer fell ill after being drenched in the Thames; it seemed more like a nervous collapse due to thwarted elopement, and the trick by which the lovers overcame the opposition of their elders went by so rapidly–like a telegraph pole going past a train–that we didn’t realise that the play was ended until the cast stood around sheepishly waiting for applause.

The acting had a lot of ‘get into position–pause–act’ and our Touchwood Senior did wave his hands about a great deal. That could have been an ironic reference to Freud’s remark about male gesticulation being associated with impotence, but I don’t think it was.

The promised 90 minutes’ running time turned out to be 75 minutes, but even so one observed a certain amount of surreptitious consulting of watches in the audience.

Better luck next time!

The Woman in the Moon, Rose Bankside 21 September

September 21, 2014


Nature (picture from event's FB page)

Nature (picture from event’s FB page)

Before this play, my knowledge of author John Lyly as derived from some forgotten Eng Lit handbook was confined to him writing something called Euphues and it being very boring.  But I was curious anyway.

Sol/Apollo prologues to the effect that what we are about to see is the poet’s dream, about a woman in the moon.  Then we are in mythical times (on earth, not the moon–it took me some time to work that out).  Nature has created lots of nice things, including four shepherds.  They feel the need for a woman so that they can perpetuate their species.  So Nature kindly creates Pandora, who is lovely in every respect.

But then the planets, annoyed at having been overlooked, turn up and decide to exert their influence on her in turn.  So for instance Mars makes her martial and she fights very convincingly with the four swains when she is under his influence.  And the thing goes along in this way–Pandora is (as it were, in this prelapsarian time) betrothed to Stesias but his compeers Melos, Learchus and Iphicles would also like to get to know the only woman in the universe.  This intrigue tangles itself up anew each time Pandora’s character is influenced a different way.

That sounds as though it could be Lyly pedantically demonstrating his classical learning and proving some theorem along the lines of ‘Every Man In His Humour’, and there were indeed times at the beginning when I looked at my watch not infrequently.  It also sounds as though it might be an extended audition piece for Bella Heesom, the actress playing Pandora, but she was very very very very good, so we didn’t care.  All of the performances were more securely-delineated than is often this case, pointing to the fact that this show had been aired before in various guises (at Glastonbury and as a reading at the Globe).

There were quite a few entirely genuine laughs from the audience as well as some real poetry in Pandora’s little mad scene.  The production was both economical and attractive, and made good use of the space behind the Rose’s playing area.

At the end, the swains have grown tired of Pandora, and she can decide which of the planets’ spheres she wants to be transported to.  She chooses Cynthia/Luna/the Moon as being fickle, foolish, fanciful, slothful and generally female.  (Of course, we sense some contradiction here since the main characters are Fortune and Pandora, both female, and Pandora gets a very high proportion of the lines–and the female characters would have been played by boys…)

Apart from the programmes having run out so that I don’t know who was who, my only reservation would be that I don’t really think this is a piece of ‘legitimate’ theatre as presented here–it could usefully have had more and better music, dancing and singing, and I think it’s really something in the nature of a masque or a musical comedy.

But enough!–This blog urges you to go and see the show–it’s lovely!


Sappho…in 9 fragments, Rose Theatre 27 May

May 27, 2013


Picture I appropriated from

Picture I appropriated from

This turned out to be a monodrama lasting 65 minutes by Jane Montgomery Griffiths, with the single performer Victoria Grove getting to play I guess four parts.  It started with Sappho in a wooden cage thing with ropes and sheeting beginning the Hymn to Aphrodite with rather Modern Greek pronunciation and leaving out the specific invocation of the god and her attributes.  I feared the worst.

As the thing developed Sappho explained how she had become a thing of gaps, which gaps men had attempted to fill with salacious pedantry, and by making her die for the love of a sweaty public transport worker (Phaon the ferryman).  This was built around sections and phrases from Sappho’s surviving works and other literary sources, including Yeats, the myth from The Symposium, and other sources I probably should have recognised.

Then we got into the affair between Atthis, a young American actress now, and the star who was playing Phaedra (in a play that had apparently gained the most famous line from Medea) and that was very good, especially as Victoria Grove got to play both of them and the star’s daughter as well.  And threw herself about the roped cage, not infrequently hanging upside-down to deliver her lines.

That’s what you need to do of course:  put what you want to say about Sappho and women in the theatre and love into concrete characters and their relationships, not a public lecture.

As for the 9 fragments, using the Voigt numbering I detected at least allusions to Nos 1, 34, 47, 49, 53, 94, 105A, 105B, 110, 111, 120, 130, 145, 137.

What was the reason for the cage and the ropes?  The human female form divine was hardly invisible to the Greeks in the way it was in the Christian era, after all.  Maybe that Sappho turned confinement to her own purposes in the same way that loss of the text became polyvalency.


(See here for what I know of other Greek plays in London.)

Saint Joan, Rose Theatre Bankside 12 May

May 13, 2012


Picture from Rose Theatre site

To start with the important things:  there are no toilets and you need to go to the Globe, as the very friendly people here always tell you.  Also you really need to sit in the back row for this production, but not (as so often) to avoid audience participation.

When the thing started, I was bemused by the combination of what I thought were Portuguese songs and most of the male roles having been made female–as in the Lady Archbishop above.  I still have no idea of the reason for that, unless it’s easier to get hold of good actresses.  Was director Constanza Hola trying to get away from the idea that Saint Joan was a better man than those around her?  Or to emphasise that she was betrayed by her own kind?  I was also irritated by the Dauphin in his tiger suit, who seemed to be excessively useless even for the heir to the French throne (than which it is admittedly hard to fall any lower).  I think that the point of Shaw is that people stand around and argue with each other, and if you don’t like that you’d be better off staging something else rather than trying to distract the audience with extraneous action.

But I was quite taken by the trial scene, where everyone (almost) was trying to do what they thought was right.  And also the videoscreened Epilogue–the idea of Cauchon spending eternity waiting for a bus in the rain was surprisingly effective, as was the Earl of Warwick’s tennis practice.

Suzanne Marie who played Joan here was also la Pucelle in Henry VI Part 1 a year ago.  I thought her rock-chick/punk girl presentation was quite effective–one thing this show wasn’t was a vehicle for the actress giving us her Joan.  I also liked Davey Kelleher, a man actually allowed to play male roles.

A New Way To Pay Old Debts Rose Theatre 13 September

September 14, 2011


'Mind the body!'

 The unimpressive photograph above shows the layout for performance:  banked seating around three sides of a playing area and the excavations beyond the railing left in darkness.

The play (by Philip Massinger, dating from 1625) concerns the evil machinations of Sir Giles Overreach, aimed at beggaring his neighbours and marrying his daughter into the nobility, in the shape of Lord Lovell.  His most wretched victim is Wellborn, formerly landed and well-off as well, whom he has reduced to destitution.  Since this is a comedy, you can safely assume that the evil machinations are frustrated, the young lovers are united, and virtue is triumphant.

The staging was clear and direct, and the whole affair was rather jolly.  It would not be entirely true to say that all the actors were perfect in their lines.  Of those who were, the standout performance came from Josh Rochford in the two roles of Marrall, Sir Giles’s wicked (later repentant) henchman and Tapwell the proprietor of a low dive.  Thomas Shirley also projected youth and innocence effectively in the role of Allworth.  Kyra Williams was very charming as Lady Allworth, virtuous widow and stepmother of the last-mentioned, though not always perfect in her lines.  Keith Chanter as Sir Giles tended to intone his lines in a rather distant fashion, preceded by spreading his arms, none of which was I thought a good idea.  Wellborn is supposed to be the engine of the plot, but as played by Frankie Spires he was rather standing around waiting for something to happen.

I think this production is certainly worth seeing, but probably later on in the run when everyone has become intimate with their part.  And the Rose Theatre is interesting to visit anyway, as well as having a very friendly front-of-house.

Henry VI Part 1 Rose Theatre 15 May

May 15, 2011


Photo from Robert Piwko Facebook page

I wondered beforehand what kind of space the Rose Theatre was going to be.  The picture above gives some idea:  there’s the normal kind of archaeological excavation with a gallery or walkway around it.   On this side there’s enough space for a few rows of chairs and a playing space, while the corresponding walkway on the far side lets the actors process and display themselves; they can also use the space in-between (water, cement, excavations) for fighting.

In Henry VI the English are about to conquer France for good but are baulked by internal dissension springing from the boy-king failing to exercise leadership on their own side together with the dissolute and treacherous Dauphin and the devil-worshipping, cowardly and promiscuous Joan of Arc on the other.

Well.   The boy overdoes his case there.  The one thing the text does credit Joan and Charles with is acting in the best interests of France.  The combination of a broken sensualist and a delusional prostitute who are nevertheless touched with grace because their cause is just is one that would have worked mightily for a better writer than a different writer from Shakespeare, but here we are focused on intestine strife among the English instead.

I wouldn't be so keen on that red rose if I were you lad (from Robert Piwko FB page)

At the beginning, I was a bit confused because the English were wearing fleur-de-lys patterned stuff as above, which I took to be French.  But the English had red fleurs-de-lys and the French blue, so they were all the same really…The production made effective use of the unusual setting, and I thought that Morgan Thomas was an absolute standout as an efficiently malign Bishop of Winchester, while Oliver Lavery looked highly convincing as the Duke of Gloucester.  I admired what David Vaughan Knight did with the caricature role of the Dauphin as well.

The staging meant that it was very difficult to make out the words of La Pucelle (Suzanne Marie) where she reveals herself to be in league with dark spirits etc etc.  Well they may be embarrassing, but we should be able to hear them and make up our own minds.

My reservation about this show is that I think the text really needs large-scale bling, glorious pomp and circumstance to bring it off–I’m far from sure it’s strong enough to stand unaided in a small-scale production like this one.

But definitely worth a visit!