DramaNorth WestReview

Roseacre – HOME, Manchester

Writer: Michael White
Director: Michael White
Reviewer: Jo Beggs


Once there was Re:Play, a festival of last year’s fringe shows from around the region that the Library Theatre thought deserved a second outing. Now there’s a shiny new version: PUSH, which is essentially the same thing but with some workshops and new work thrown in. It’s great news that Re:Play was considered important enough for a makeover, and continues to offer emerging companies the opportunity to re-create their work – often stuff that’s had no more than a couple of nights in a room over a pub to a handful of audience members – in HOME’s studio space.

PUSH is about the future, the home-grown talent that are, in HOME’s words “thrilling, exciting and challenging audiences”. Unfortunately, Roseacre is not the best place to start. This 90-minute four-hander, which started life as part of the Leeds Library WordPlay scheme in partnership with the Unity Theatre, Liverpool, is hardly cutting edge theatre. In fact, despite starting out with a glimmer of a good idea, Square Peg Theatre have created a clumsy production of a cliché-ridden script.

Although the company claims to have been influenced by Scandinavian Noir, Roseacre is more reminiscent of British 1970s cop shows, with a cast of unlikeable characters caught up in a story of criminals and corruption. Set in a world of environmental activism and undercover surveillance, an unlikely group of individuals find themselves involved with one another and not knowing who to trust. Throw an unlikely romantic liaison into the mix and it’s Romeo and Juliet all over again. It’s not going to end well. But what could have been a deliciously dark tale falls way short. There’s far too much hackneyed dialogue that seeks to explain unnecessarily to the audience what’s going on – resulting in a slowing of the pace and a feeling that our intelligence is being questioned.

The lumbering pace is echoed in the use of physical theatre scenes, breaking up the narrative and attempting to create a range of locations. This should work as it’s all well executed (the chase scene through a forest, in particular, is pretty successful) but the majority of it is dull, repetitive and delivered in faux slow-motion. Less of this could shave a welcome 10 minutes off the show. It doesn’t help that most of this action is employed to move the clutter of furniture and props around. Two large shelving units, one on each side of the stage, are full of unnecessary stuff – plates, bottles, glasses, cutlery, cups – which all seems as much of a distraction to the cast as to the audience as they select something different to occupy their hands in every scene. Studio shows should be about paired down simplicity – and with the physical theatre it seems there’s a real attempt to do this here – but then the production slips back into the traditional with its set changing and wigs and endless kitchenware.

Performances somewhat reflect the unimaginative script they have to work with. Michael White makes a wholly unconvincing detective and Dominic Myerscough’s corrupt police officer is nowhere near as unpleasant as he needs to be. By the end, when everyone’s turning on everyone else, it’s hard to care who ends up dead.

Runs until 17 January 2016 | Image: Contributed

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