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A Broken Rose, The Cockpit

Sarah Goddard
Directed by Phil Willmott
★★★★

Pros: A very clever script with an engrossing tale – you don’t want the story(ies) to stop!

Cons: The vocals in the singing components are a little shaky at the beginning, as were the sound cues which didn’t quite do justice to the original score.

Our Verdict: This is rich story-telling with a skillful blend of fantasy and reality; well worth seeing.

Courtesy of the Cockpit Theatre

A Broken Rose doesn’t give much away in the title and the first few moments are just as opaque. We meet our protagonist as soon as we walk into the theatre: a young girl, Maria (Louisa Lytton), seemingly of the present day, minding her own business and working on a puzzle. As the lights go down, she sings an eerie tune of a girl who lives in a land of diamonds and gold. As the lights turn orange, presumably to create this make-believe world (or so we think), a Hercules and Zeena pair of characters, clad in warrior garb of golden hues, enter the scene. They approach Maria and clamber on couches and tables, as she pleads to the male figure, whom she first addresses as ‘Daddy’, to tell her a story. The setting seems to be Maria’s modern-day living room, the only trace of the fantastical in the lighting and in the Narnia-esque branches hanging from the ceiling, posing as a chandelier.

It’s an opening scene that really gives you no clear direction of what you’re in for: fantasy, sci-fi, nonsense? Upon the entrance of Maria’s mother (Nicola Wright), a neglectful alcoholic with a boisterous boyfriend (John Last), of whom we are immediately suspicious, the action becomes clearer.

Maria has a miserable home life, her only friends these mystical beings, fairies, Moon (Chris Barley) and Sun (Amy Barnes) whom only she can see, who keep her company and tell her stories just as her absent father used to. As it turns out, the fairies have come to rescue her from her dire situation but first, she must pass their tests.

Soon, what could have been a standard living-room drama about a damaged family becomes an engrossing tale of a young girl’s coping mechanism against the harsh realities of life: the welcoming escape of make-believe. Or is it? Maria doesn’t seem to think so, and, as the action progressed I wanted to believe in fairies too.

This is a very skillful piece of writing from Sarah Goddard (Off West End Offie Award nominee, Most Promising Playwright) that creates two worlds of equal interest, blending the boundaries of fiction and reality so that even the audience does not really know what is what.

A simple set in the round allows the intrigue and profundity of the stories to shine through, while an effective original score augments an intense and ever present melancholy that makes you want to save these continually plummeting characters yourself. By the show’s conclusion, the meaning of the title becomes painfully clear.

A Broken Rose is a well crafted and expertly delivered production – an unsettling, modern-day, anti-fairy tale fairy tale, captivating in an edge-of-your-seat, don’t-need-an-interval way that is truly rare.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

A Broken Rose runs at the Cockpit Theatre until 30th September 2012.
Box Office: 020 7258 2925 or book online at http://thecockpit.org.uk/show/a_broken_rose

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