Sarah Goddard’s new play The Broken Rose explores the lines between reality and fantasy. When has a fantasy been taken too far? Are those that believe in their fantasies delusional? The play itself is part fairy tale, part soap drama, however I couldn’t stop thinking there was something considerable lacking in the script. I was left at the end frowning, with far too many questions that had been left unanswered. Yet I do not want to write the entire play off in one swoop. It was, on the other hand, very watchable – the costumes, the prefect replica of a 70’s living room and the soft, intimate setting of the Cockpit Theatre.
The story follows Maria (played by Louisa Lytton) as she escapes from her drunken mother (Nicola Wright) and her mother’s abusive boyfriend (John Last) by living in a parallel fantasy world inhabited by fairies. While this all sounds very far fetched, Lytton played the 13 year old girl with an honesty that made the audience sympathise with her situation, and made the story line almost, but not quite, believable. However, right from the start you could see that the story was hurling toward the tragedy of the final scenes.
While I can’t deny the play was very well cast (credit to casting director Danielle Tarento), the characters all felt a little stereotypical, rather than stand alone characters in their own right, and I got the sense throughout the play that the actors were constantly struggling against this. Nicola Wright playing Maria’s alcoholic, neglectful mother fought to make her character less two-dimensional but didn’t quite succeed.
However, there were some very poignant moments; the scenes between Maria and her physiatrist, Dr Cole (performed by Nick Boulton) were very moving. You could see Maria’s desperate want to be loved and cherished by someone with a clarity that was almost heart breaking. The re-telling of the various fairy tales was brought to life by a soft and unobtrusive lighting design by Tom Boucher, and a clever set design by Emma Tompkins that had tree branches hanging down over the living room of Maria’s house. It reminded the audience not only of the woods that often make an appearance in fairy tales but also of the confused tangle of Maria’s mind as the line between reality and fantasy became more and more blurred.
The play has great potential. I just felt the dialogue between the characters needed a little more work to make them individuals, not simply an alcoholic mother, a child shrink, a neglected daughter. Goddard’s attempt to bring a fairy world into contact with the real world fell a little short, the truth of the play hidden beneath too complex a web of themes.
A Broken Rose is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 30 September. For more information and tickets, see the Cockpit Theatre website.