Alys Metcalf
Rose Theatre
Rose Theatre Kingston

Saffron Coomber as Niala and Martin Marquez as Ben Credit: Iona Firouzabadi
Martin Marquez as Ben and Saffron Coomber as Niala Credit: Iona Firouzabadi
Martin Marquez as Ben Credit: Iona Firouzabadi

There is much to like about Leopards. The dialogue is intelligent, believable and peppered with humour. The air of mystery about the plot is intriguing and the issue of addressing historical abuse against women is important and necessary.

There are also fine performances from Saffron Coomber as the mysterious Niala and Martin Marquez as the socially confident Ben who meet at a hotel to discuss Niala’s interest in switching careers to work in the charity field.

All the same, I did find myself mentally shaking my head at certain aspects of the performance as I left the theatre. Most of that smart dialogue gives us a good sense of the charming charity CEO Ben, who has been perhaps nudged into agreeing to the meeting with Niala after seeing her picture attached to her CV. As a campaigning charity worker, he is used to being friendly and engaging. An audience will find it easy to sympathise with him, even if the dialogue does keep prodding them with social issues ranging from the dangers of plastic to the revelations of abuse in the charity sector.

In contrast, Niala is less clearly defined. She is initially reserved till she asks Ben to her bedroom where her behaviour has a purpose that flits through so many possible motivations it could make you dizzy. The actual historical events that may have prompted all this feel very remote.

Nevertheless, the dialogue, its intelligent humour and the low-powered dramatic tension of the piece hold our attention even as we occasionally yearn for something better.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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