EFR - Reviews of The Rose and Crown

The Rose and Crown

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Hannah Congdon

at 10:44 on 23rd Aug 2016

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Director Martin Foreman’s production of the J. B Priestley post-war play ‘The Rose and Crown’ does provide a fairly clear explanation as to why the script so rarely makes it to the stage. This is a baffling 40 minutes of a show, 35 minutes of which consist of six characters grumbling over their miserable state of affairs in a dreary London pub.

The dialogue is plodding and really quite trying – unsurprisingly listening to squawking old women complaining of stomach trouble, and irritable men moaning repeatedly that "business is bad" is hardly captivating stuff. To give credit to the production, the bleak hopelessness felt across a Britain that had been ripped apart by war for the previous six years is conveyed well, with the dusty amber lighting and dull-coloured 40s suits creating an ambience that can only be described as overwhelmingly brown.

The actors cannot really be blamed for the flop of the show; despite a few slips of accent, much of the dialogue is performed well, with the perpetual squabbles of the ageing Bertha Reed and Oliver Cookson, played assuredly by Hilary Davies and Oliver Cookson respectively, being memorably the most fraught and plausible of the character tensions. The issue with all of this, though, is that however well the actors may have delivered their lines, there is little joy or revelation garnered from witnessing dislikeable characters squabble over their trivial and self-consumed worries. The more cheerful Harry Tully (Charles Finnie), is meant to be the generous-hearted beacon of the play, but his characterisation is affected and overdone, and I simply found his ostentatious do-gooding irritatingly self-righteous.

We have no investment in anyone on the stage, no emotive tug that keeps us enticed or engaged by the arguments unfolding before us, so when a mystical outsider arrives on the scene and bizarrely announces that the six characters must choose which one of them will die that evening, not only am I utterly confounded by the most disjointed plot I have ever come across, I am also wholly indifferent as to who the victim will be.

Needless to say, it is an odd choice of theatre to put on, but having decided to tackle it, why not try something fresh with it? Use sound to create a tension that was missing for much of the show, or cut the moaning dialogue so that we see it in a montage, leaving more space for the moral inquiry at the end of the play, or more drastically still give the dated play a new lease of life by staging it in the context of modern day concerns? My problem with the production is not that it is poorly executed, but that there is a lack of imagination and ambition in the directorial approach to what is really quite a bland script.

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Zoe Bowman

at 11:12 on 23rd Aug 2016

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Six civilians from London walk into a bar; not the beginning of a tedious joke, but rather the beginning of a tedious play. Arbery Productions' decision to perform J. B. Priestley's 'The Rose and Crown' at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a definite risk, and unfortunately the choice of the lesser-known play does not pay off.

Set in 1940s Britain, the audience watch as characters are forced to deliberate on their lives and decide on each other's fate; a premise which has the potential to make for an interesting and thought-provoking production. However, the rushed script and underdeveloped plot line result in a hasty performance, and one that leaves audience members perplexed and wanting more when the lights turn on.

The play presents to the audience six very different characters in post-war Britain, whose introductions are centred around the local pub, The Rose and Crown. In terms of setting and costume, the decision to stick to period clothing and props may have been an attempt to keep this production true to its origins, however instead it comes across as outdated and dull. With a number of innovative and vibrant shows at the Fringe, it is a shame that director Martin Foreman has not chosen to alter the aesthetics of 'The Rose and Crown' in an attempt to make the production something out-of-the-ordinary.

However, it is true that the actors in 'The Rose and Crown' do the very best with the script that is given. Each portrayal is alive with characters quirks, from the happy-go-lucky Harry Truman (Charles Finnie) to the cynical Edward Stone (Oliver Cookson). However, the real stand out in this production comes in the form of The Stranger (Oliver Trotter). Prowling eerily around the stage before he enters, Trotter annunciates his lines with no more emotion than an sinister robot, completely detached from the difficult scenario he has thrust upon these people.

Although it is undeniable that the actors have talent, it is frustrating that the poor choice of play does not allow for anyone to reach their full potential; the story line is far too rushed to allow for any interesting development in terms of plot. One might say it would benefit to stick to convention and perform "An Inspector Calls" than wander down the more mundane path-less-travelled.

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