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Two-Headed, The Rose Theatre

July Jensen
Directed by Amy Bonsall

Pros: A truly fascinating venue hosting a snappy and energetic performance.

Cons: Mormon culture is probably not the most riveting subject matter.

Our Verdict: Worth the detour – check it out!

Courtesy of My Lovely Productions

A play dealing with the difficulties of living in the Mormon community in the middle of the 19th century is more relevant today than one might imagine. With the presidential race tightening in the USA, more and more fuss is being made about Mitt Romney’s religious views, he himself being a Mormon. In the UK, it is easy to overlook the importance of this factor – but Two-Headed, which deals with one of the darker episodes in Mormon history, and the effect of their tradition on the life of the community’s women, gives an interesting insight into why Romney’s religious affectations are such a big deal across the pond. Staged in the cavernous yet intimate space of The Rose on the Southbank, this production delivers a fascinating 80 minutes with some great performances.

The first thing to mention about this production is the location. The Rose theatre is probably the most interesting theatrical space you will visit in London. It is based on the site of the original Rose, which was one of London’s first theatres, and where Shakespeare’s career began. Effectively, it is an archaeological dig, above which a small studio-style theatre has been erected. After the production, audience members are treated to a talk about the history of the space, and the plans to excavate the 400 year-old remains of the historical theatre by 2016. If you haven’t been, go. You will not regret it.

Two-Headed makes wonderful use of this truly unique space. The cavernous backdrop effectively becomes part of the set – in the obscurity, the flooded excavation site could almost be a nearby lake or forest. This fits in well with the 19th century, naturalistic décor and set which the production team have chosen. The show is visually very pleasing as a result, with no effort spared with costumes or design.

The story, based around two Mormon women, one of whom witnessed a horrific massacre by religious zealots, is set in sections – we revisit the characters at a different stage of their lives in each scene, roughly a decade apart each time. This would pose a challenge to any performer, but Noor Lawson and Liz McMullen rise to it. Although the performances sometimes feel a little overdone, the young actresses skilfully guide the audience through the lives of the two young Mormon women, and the difficulties they face as they grow older. At times funny, at other heart-wrenching, Lawson and McMullen deserve great kudos for delivering such engaging and powerful characterisations.

The bottom line is this: although I do not personally find the subject matter entirely fascinating, this is a great show based in a remarkable venue, and I would recommend it highly. Although not ground-breaking, it is a very good show with some excellent performances and that’s good enough for me!

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

Two-Headed runs at the Rose Theatre on Southbank until 22nd July 2012.
Box Office: 020 7261 9565 or book online at http://www.rosetheatre.org.uk/events/two-headed-by-julie-jensen-2/

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