Pros: A beautiful performance space; an idyllic setting to take in a quick-witted, educational show.
Cons: Perhaps a little too silly for an adult audience, although perfect for a family evening with the nippers.
Situated in the picturesque Roof Garden at Crossrail Place (NOT The Space theatre itself, although fairly close by if you have to make a 15 minute dash to the correct venue), The Space have collaborated with Canary Wharf in order to devise a summer of entertaining projects and performances, all of which are free, you’ll be pleased to hear. One of many shows to grace the stage of this rooftop oasis is The Royal Nutshell, in which The Roof Garden Players have taken on the mantle of presenting the entire history of the British Monarchy in less than an hour. Comical in places, a little awkward in others, the piece is an entertaining way to refresh your knowledge of British history, with a chuckle or two along the way.
Upon arrival, I was ushered to my seat by one of the enthusiastic players, handed a paper flag and told to settle down and enjoy the show. After a panicked preamble in which the ensemble realise just how many monarchs they have to cram into 45 minutes, they get well and truly stuck in. Implementing a number of techniques to do so, including catchy songs, amusing Christmas announcements and humorous battles (this is where the paper flags came in), the quick-paced performance certainly didn’t lack gusto. The players themselves were full of energy, bouncing off each other whilst recounting events throughout British history with fervour. Their passion for their favourite rulers, and onstage bickering about which events deserved more of their precious stage time had me smiling throughout.
Enthusiasm aside, however, the performance did seem rather cringeworthy in places. For instance, the use of audience interaction worked well on the occasions where viewers were allowed to stay in their seats. I rather enjoyed waving my flag on cue during a hasty staging of The Wars of The Roses. However, when it came to hauling audience members onto the stage to partake in a game show, there were clearly a few that felt a little uncomfortable at the thought, and it perhaps would have worked better with a younger, more eager audience.
In fact, the entire production would have worked wonderfully if viewed by children of a school age. Although the performance did have plenty of funny moments, and I always appreciate an opportunity to brush up on my history knowledge, it did feel very educational. Granted, this is clearly the natural course considering the subject matter, it is certainly a performance that a younger audience would enjoy immensely, and most likely benefit from. The actions that the ensembles paired with each royal house, and the catchy raps and songs that accompanied events such as the Gunpowder Plot were great memory boosters, perfect for those learning about some of Britain’s historical escapades.
Overall, this fun-filled performance made for very easy viewing on a pleasant evening and the idyllic haven of a performance space only added to the enjoyment. A little silly, but certainly entertaining, it would be a great one to take the kids to. Additionally, the casual setting meant that curious passers-by were walking in to take a peek well into the performance. So if you find yourself in the area, and history is your cup of tea, then it’s certainly worth paying The Roof Garden Players a visit.
Director: Sebastian Rex
Producers: The Roof Garden Players
Booking Until: 25 July 2015
Box Office: 0207 515 7799
Booking Link: https://space.org.uk/event-booking/?event=theroyalnutshell