Pros: A very different performance from an actress at the top of her game, in a venue that deserves all the support it can get.
Cons: The intensity and non-stop momentum of this play might not be to everyone’s taste
My only previous visit to the Battersea Arts Centre never transpired, as the show I expected to see was relocated following the fire that caused so much damage. So upon arriving tonight, the last thing I wanted to hear was the fire alarm sounding. Thankfully, after a 15-minute wait outside, the all clear was given and the politely amassed crowd began to filter back in. Credit to the staff, who did their best to keep things moving and made sure we were all safe, and only slightly delayed.
When the show finally began, it was soon apparent that any stress caused by the evacuation was not going to be relieved, because James Fritz’s Ross & Rachel is an hour of scorching intensity that requires maximum concentration and complete dedication.
Molly Vevers plays both Rachel and Ross, giving a performance that is possibly as exhausting for the audience as it appears to be for her. It’s an incredible solo turn. Whatever your opinion of the play, and I can easily see how people’s views will differ greatly, there is no way you cannot be impressed by Vevers. For an hour she hardly stops talking. At times she plays both halves of the conversation, at others only one half, the other having to be constructed in our own minds as she answers unspoken questions or replies to comments from imagined friends and family. It is stunning to watch as she acts to thin air as if someone were really standing there. It’s all, well, just very, very intense.
Ross & Rachel portrays the emotions and thoughts of a relationship between a couple in their 40s: the ups, the downs, the times you think things could have been so different. At its heart lie Rachel’s feelings of her own personality consumed, seen instead only as part of a couple. Rachel is drowning in the relationship, something that is starkly and cleverly reflected in the simple, effective staging as she sits, kneels, lies and stands in a small circle of shallow water in the centre of the stage. Ross is blind to Rachel’s concerned, so convinced is he of their togetherness, so certain that this relationship is will never fail.
The play takes a staggering turn early on that is completely unexpected and we watch as the tension is raised, level by level, until the final breath. It’s almost a relief when the end does come, as only at that point do you feel you can relax again. As the house lights finally come up there is almost an audible sigh from both audience and actor.
It’s difficult to decide whether to thoroughly recommend Ross & Rachel or to suggest you only attend if you can deal with an hour of powerful and intense theatre. This clearly won’t suit everyone, but if you feel like watching one woman perform immaculately in a play that explores aspects of relationships most of us have probably experienced at one time or another, it is worthy of a visit. And fingers cross if you do attend, you won’t be met by a mass evacuation.
Author: James Fritz
Director: Thomas Martin
Producer: Andrew Hughes
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/41823/whats_on/whats_on/shows/ross__rachel
Booking Until: 25th June 2016