DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

ROTTEN – Harrogate Theatre

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Writer: Josie White

Director: Rikki Beadle Blair

The mood is mainly confusion. Clearly what comes over as a juvenile shouting match has more to recommend it than is initially apparent: support by such theatres as Curve and Derby Theatre and a series of important events surrounding the tour, including shadowing the director, suggest work of greater moment.

An Emmerson & Ward production, it is described as “Hitchcock meets Lord of the Flies” and the Hitchcock connection is not difficult to find: the basic plot is an obvious echo of Rear Window. The Lord of the Flies connection is more difficult to establish, unless it be the general one that, if you give youngsters their heads, they will end up smashing them to bits. The protagonists here are a bit older than Piggy and Ralph, “young regional actresses”. The plot depends on them spying on Instagram celebrity Iris Montague-Willis in a neighbouring flat: rather surprising to find a celebrity in such close proximity to penniless actors. Newly engaged, Iris is seen in a compromising position with another woman and the opportunity arises for blackmail.

To be honest,ROTTEN didn’t find its ideal audience at Harrogate. Mainly middle-aged and upwards, with plenty of empty seats, we listened attentively to the succession of four letter words and screams of horror, anguish or revelation, but the definition of the play as “so cool” (as on the website) hardly sprang to mind. Sadly there are no universities or colleges in Emmerson & Ward’s rather bitty tour, though one imagines cities such as Nottingham will provide more enthusiastic audiences.

Nicole Taggart’s Saoirse certainly makes an impression, beginning the play with an expletive-filled monologue, bestowing her favours indiscriminately on Coco and Ross – and succeeding in demonstrating a sympathetic side beneath the anger. Kavita Vyas attempts the impossible in the sudden changes in the character of Sonia – and almost succeeds. Narisha Lawson (Coco) completes a trio who, whatever else, never lack energy and commitment. Alice Berry is appropriately contemptuous of her neighbours as Iris and as Ross, Sonia’s drug-dealing, gun-carrying boyfriend, Sam Butters at least gets a splendid monologue on eating you eels with proper old-fashioned “licker”. By the end of the play it was proving difficult to remember who was still alive.

Rikki Beadle Blair seems to contribute very little as director and the whole thing takes place on a curtained stage with three bean bags and an over-crowded table.

Perhaps one should blame the generation gap!

Reviewed on 9th May 2024. Touring to Lancaster and Nottingham.

The Reviews Hub Score

Loud and confusing

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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