by guest critic Gregory Forrest
The Rose is a unique venue: part studio theatre, part archaeological dig. Taking your seat to begin the performance, you are met with a cool breeze of black. Some sense of space exists around you, yet is imperceptible. Then, as the play begins, you are suddenly met with lights and depth and a sheer drop to a still underground lake. For this moment alone, The Rose is worth a look.
James and Daniel are chalk and cheese, and very much in love. The unemployed photographer and Canary Wharf stockbroker are adorably domestic, but both are hiding secrets. When James’ uni mate and ex-girlfriend Olivia vengefully reveals one of them, this irrevocably opens the floodgates to the rest. Excellent performances give this domestic drama its punch. Whilst the script is far from groundbreaking, it’s an accurate reflection of human intentions and fallibility.
Within 50 years of Shakespeare’s death, playwriting was changing quickly. Less flowery language and more powerful female characters are prominent in James Shirley’s rarely-staged The Cardinal, written in 1641. The plot is more streamlined, but some of the outdoor playhouse performance conventions linger along with the grandness of the king’s court. The story proudly flaunts influence from earlier revenge tragedies and is no less bloody, but easier to follow than some of those on stage a few decades or so earlier. In Southwark Playhouse’s smaller space with historical costumes, Justin Audibert’s production evokes the intimate atmosphere of indoor playhouses that were beginning to take over towards the end of Shakespeare’s career.