Pros: For 95 minutes, Kristen Sieh and Libby King bounce back and forth between genders, playing both Brenda and Ann, and Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis Presley. They do so fluidly and the interactions between Elvis and Roosevelt are often hilarious.
Cons: Momentum sometimes lags.
The TEAM are an experimental American theatre company who have been performing for over ten years. The company’s latest production, RoosevElvis, stars Kristen Sieh as Brenda and Teddy Roosevelt, and Libby King as Ann and Elvis Presley.
Ann is a 35 year-old single woman whose hero is Elvis Presley and while alone in her apartment, she often channels her role model, creating imaginary conversations between the two of them. Seeking company, she arranges for Brenda, a taxidermist whom she meets online, to stay at her apartment for the weekend in Rapid City, South Dakota. While Ann is happy to display her affection for Brenda in private, she is extremely reluctant to do so in public and is even embarrassed to mention the word ‘gay’ while in a diner. Following the disastrous date, Ann sinks further into a drunken depression and spends more and more time talking to ‘Elvis’. Soon someone Elvis looked up to, Theodore Roosevelt, joins in the battle to inspire her. She is afraid of flying but has always dreamed of visiting Graceland in Memphis Tennessee and the two imaginary characters may be the only ones who can push her in to taking a giant leap of faith.
The dreamlike production forces the audience to use its imagination, from using rowing machines as horses, to a sofa being used as an RV. Although this all sounds bizarre, it works. It is when Teddy and Elvis verbally spar that some of the funniest moments come to light. Both men try to out compete the other, with Elvis karate chopping pizza boxes in half and Teddy donning boxing gloves and attacking bison. Though they do show softer sides, as when Elvis expresses how much he misses his mother, while Teddy laments the loss of his wife Alice and mother, who both died on the same day.
The set is basic but effective, with a sofa set up in front of a television and a green curtain beyond, hiding Ann’s kitchen. There are also three different sized television screens on the left of the stage, at least one of which plays continuously throughout the production. On these screens we see Ann working at the meat-processing plant, on her road trip with Brenda, and eventually her journey and visit to Graceland.
The play touches on a number of different themes – sexuality, depression and loneliness and gender – but doesn’t delve deeper into each individually, which is disappointing. The audience are taken on a rollercoaster ride with Ann, and are willing her to succeed in her battle to overcome her depression and get out of her mundane day-to-day routine.
Authors: Rachel Chavkin, Libby King, Jake Margolin and Kristen Sieh
Director: Rachel Chavkin
Booking Until: 14 November 2015
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking Link: http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/roosevelvis