Evidence / Coup
Richard Hurst / Elinor Perry-Smith
The Rosebery Repertory Company
White Bear Theatre, Kennington
Acting companies willing to explore new work should be commended. However, brand new actor-led company Rosebery Repertory boasting direction from young talents Mike Carter and Will Sheriff-Hammond—both with National Theatre Studio credits to their name—are all good intentions and ill-advised results.
In the first pairing of their four plays, labelled on publicity as ‘state-of-the-nation' works, Evidence follows the domestic stresses and strains of five crime scene officers. A promising pre-set awaits the audience: white plastic and steel chairs are strewn on the tiny playing space and an actor in white boiler suit silently assesses the details whilst jarring music plays. Once the play starts in earnest, though, the quality of the writing and wildly varying abilities of the performers completely undermine an initially positive sense of anticipation.
The point that playwright Richard Hurst seems to be making is that we as a society are entirely de-sensitized to violence and crime; and none more so than these hapless crime scene investigators who are only interested in their various chaotic domestic circumstances and relationships. An interesting subject, but in this instance explored without depth or new insight. Characters are shallow and entirely unbelievable—not due to the on-stage efforts of the five actors—but due to a flimsy, jumpy plot and uninspired stereotyping inherent in the script. As soon as we seem to approach an involving emotional moment, the feeling is broken by a cheap laugh and an endless barrage of swearing and shouting which loses all meaning.
In Coup, playwright Perry-Smith has created a dystopian vision of a Britain on the eve of a republican / anarchist revolution which has overthrown "the old king". This writing shows far greater promise and intrigue but tries to cram in too many ideas; we are invited to consider radical nationalism, anarchism, racism, tyrannical regimes, mass violence and class struggles all in the space of 20 minutes. The most disturbing and memorable dystopian worlds are those which closely resemble our own and in this play, the setting is not underpinned with a clear political and historical starting point.
What is exciting about this season of work is the venue. Intimate and unusual (it's attached to the back of a pub) it's the perfect space for new writers to cut their teeth, and has the potential to draw in new audiences from the public having a pint just behind the theatre doors.
The Rosebery Repertory Company is a good initiative, and for their next season they need to assess their choice of plays and try not to spread themselves so thinly.
N.B The second set of plays Powerplay / Click is alternated with Evidence / Coup.
Reviewer: Anna Jones