Sub Rosa *****

20Jan09

A Fire Exit Ltd and Citizens Theatre co-production, Glasgow
Monday 19th January – Saturday 31st January 2009

Theatre has the ability to adapt and rebel against existing theatrical forms, to alter established story-telling methods and to challenge preconceptions. Site -specific theatre may not be a new form, but recently the form’s popularity has grown and the Citizens theatre’s presentation of Sub Rosa, embraces the form to new heights.  Playwright and director, David Leddy, sets a Victorian drama, away from the theatre’s traditional performing spaces, in the backstage area of the building. Site specific theatre has a tendency to be reliant on gimmicks, but fortunately Leddy’s production aims to resist this temptation and instead presents an enticing, thrilling theatrical experience.

Anticipation is the first device by Leddy, leaving a small audience of fifteen to gather, for a tour, in the derelict foyer. The Citizens Theatre embraces its role as the fictional Winter Palace Theatre, perfectly selected for its dark charm, twisting corridors and hidden rooms. The audience soon meet characters from the theatre’s history and a story of rebellion begins to reveal itself. The action is told mainly through monologues in enclosed spaces, resulting in every face crease, tense muscle and held back tear being perfectly clear to the audience. The strength of the performances are admirable, particularly Finlay Welsh’s chilling portrayal of wig master Angus MacNeil and the concluding monologue of Ida McCracken, play by Louise Ludgate.

Leddy’s play is skilfully crafted and could be taken as a comment on present theatre funding and managing style debates. Yet, on the surface, it is an enthralling, smoothly directed, promenade around the unseen spaces of the theatre, complete with an intensely dramatic dark story. The novelty of the staging does not dominate the action because of the compelling Scottish talent on show in this production.

TF

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