Rosebery Repertory Company, a newly formed actor-led theatre company, have launched with an inaugural mini-season of new writing, but the result stumbles at some basic production levels, failing to impress in a number of choices. See this review for the first double bill, Evidence/Coup, and click here for the review of Powerplay/Click.
Please note that, due to the nature of this project, the reviews of both nights of the mini-season share an introduction and a conclusion that look at the project as a whole.
Starting with a brief breakdown: it's a real shame to see such a huge group of actors work together to create something quite so misguided. New writing can often be tricky to tackle, but making the job even harder for yourself by pairing mismatched pieces smacks of a lack of foresight. I'm not sure how the project came together, but the humongous variance in performer ability, quality of writing and quality of direction suggests a bit of a mish-mash from the start. It has never been clearer that just throwing a bunch of elements into a room does not lead to a successful undertaking.
In this case of Evidence, the first piece of the first evening, nothing manages to come together - the performers range from the perfectly decent to the poor, although they are working with a particularly lacklustre script. Richard Hurst's piece aims to showcase the lives of crime scene investigators, but a bizarre distancing from the crimes themselves makes the whole piece feel a little like the linking scenes in a particularly overwrought episode of CSI - and without a body or central crime to revolve around, these scenes fail spectacularly to have any impact at all. The characters flop in and out of relationships with shallow ease, and the fact that they are all such stereotypes (and that everything they say is a cliché) doesn't help with the TV analogy.
There are also too many scenes that jump forward in time too quickly - and each scene change is bookended with the same piece of music, played over and over (and over) again, and the same strobe lighting effect: a particularly ham-fisted piece of direction.
On the other hand, Coup has the beginnings of something rather good - a post-apocalyptic scenario where the King has been killed and the usurper comes to take his place. The writing and design are a little out there, with characters speaking in an odd combination of modern patois and Regency jargon and dressed like the love-child of Adam Ant and a skinhead swanning around Victorian London, but it somehow works: there's clearly more to Elinor Perry-Smith's work, but the cruelly short running time doesn't allow for enough scope to take it all in.
It's a shame, because Coup clearly has legs - the anachronistic setting and style scream of a greater new world to be discovered, and I imagine Will Sherriff-Hammond would have liked to delve into this more, given the opportunity.
New writing nights are currently very en vogue, and that's a very good thing in my book: playwrights need opportunities to get their work seen. But nights like these are what make such ventures hard to stomach: it's understandable that the writing will be raw and in need of pruning, but why is so much of it pedestrian? Two out of the four pieces (Evidence and Click) presented by Rosebery Repertory here are trite, old-fashioned and boring - why have they been given an airing? And why have the company overstretched themselves by trying to do four at once, thus impacting the watchability of all of them?
Poor decisions abound here, and the result doesn't make for interesting viewing, nor much promise of any to come - from the writers or the company. Such a shame.