EFR - Reviews of Roar

Roar

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Ramin Sabi

at 09:00 on 6th Aug 2011

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This musical romp about prostitutes in seventeenth century London is certainly enjoyable if not exceedingly odd. This piece of new writing by Sam Gayton includes everything from Lady Gaga to (supposedly) traditional verse.

One can’t criticise the “high camp” of the prostitutes (one of them being a convincing but bearded transvestite) that defines most of the show, as this is what Dumbshow’s production professes to exude with its cabaret atmosphere. The camp and kitsch of the cabaret is fun, no doubt, with some very enjoyable dance numbers (if some are in need of tightening). However, much of the “fun” is exceedingly embarrassing, permeated with cringe-worthy audience interaction (“what’s your favourite song, darling?”) and irrelevant contemporary references to Beyonce, Gaga and the like that provoke a mild chuckle and questions as to the overall coherence of the show, especially when considering the main story.

The central plot, concerning a London bound in strict codes of conduct by a tyrannical Lord Chief Justice. Banned from public consumption are music, alcohol and anything an audience member says they desire (the law on dancing is slightly reminiscent of Footloose). The estranged twin sister of the Lord Justice, Moll Cutpurse is the leader of the prostitutes and seeks to destroy her brother’s life and the edifice of his city. If the creators of the show were intending to make an intricate exploration of authority and anarchy in society, then this plot is sold rather thin, with the exception of one or two scenes that approach actual emotional engagement. But, as is more likely, the plot is an excuse for a frivolous story with a more interesting structure than the standard farce, then this is a moderate success.

Some of the performances are exceptionally entertaining and the actress who plays Moll is an incredibly captivating performer, which contributes markedly to one’s enjoyment of the piece as a whole, as does the original music and moments cleverly comedic verse.

Overall this play is a successful piece of entertainment with some originality (even if that is quite thin), but the incoherence and certain poor choices with the direction of the show limit the potential quality. If you seek some fun, then see it, but keep in mind that it is more likely to evoke a growl than a Roar.

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Rebecca Tatlow

at 10:16 on 6th Aug 2011

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Set in the 17th century, 'Roar' is the tale of the revenge of Moll Cutpurse. Abandoned at birth by a father only interested in her twin brother John, she is further enraged to find upon her arrival in London that this same brother, now Lord Chief Justice, has banned all forms of entertainment and self expression. Her punishment upon her family and the law is swift, wild and absolute.

The show bills itself as combining the backstreets of London with Gaga glamour and Moll's followers - three women and one man who likes to express his passionate nature- are definitely dressed to the nines in sequins, wigs and feather boas. However it is never as camp as it might sound and at points it does more than border on such serious questions as the right to personal freedom and revolution. Initially there is some audience participation but this quickly fizzles out with little impact upon the general atmosphere.

Moll is a free spirit attempting to make a difference for all the wrong reasons and the lead actress captures both her glamazon sexuality and childish need to be recognised by her brother. Their reunion entirely lacks fairy tale sentimentality, thereby bringing a touch of realism to the otherwise high-octane drama. John meanwhile is very staid, annoyingly proper and romantically protective of his new wife Agnes. Not the most attractive character, it is his deterioration and loss of control which moves the audience.

Yet whilst these central performances and relationships drive the play, I found it was the flock of beaked judges who provided much of the comedy. Their fascination with the wild women and their inability to get to the point, even as the world dissolves in chaos, are both pathetic and very human. These were played by the same actors who also embodied Moll's followers who, although fun, weren't diverse enough to quite match the force of Moll with whom they generally always shared the stage.

The overexuberence of 'Roar' provides a show which is both fun and substantial. Unfortunately it was not as revolutionary in design and style as the plot's focus on liberty promised but this lack of innovation was compensated by solid performances and plenty of laughs. In this party popper piece, Moll uses glitter and gin to transform the women of London into wolves. It may not transform the world of theatre or inspire quite the level of emotion needed to actually roar in response to the issues raised but 'Roar' is a revel which doesn't always go for the easy laugh and isn't afraid to tackle the fruitless nature of revenge.

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