Review: Leia and the Roman, VAULT Festival

The form of the rom-com gets mixed up in Leia and the Roman at the VAULT Festival

“We can’t break up over a Star Wars film”

Is the point at which you introduce roleplay into a relationship a healthy expression of developing desire or a sticking plaster over things going wrong. At first, it seems like it’s the former for Ed and Kate (and when your man looks as good as this centurion, we’re all winners!), but it’s soon apparent that all is not well here. It’s not just that Kate has dressed up as Princess Leia from The Last Jedi rather than Return of the Jedi, but neither really seems to be sure what the costumes are actually for.

Sally O’Leary and James Saville’s play Leia and the Roman tackles the world of modern )straight) dating with something of a coolly  unsentimental eye. Kate and Ed find themselves in a rut even after just a couple of years, unable to even decide on what takeaway to get without squabbling. And as is so often the case, it takes an innocuous argument that snowballs into something worse to force them to dig deep into the truth about where they both are emotionally. O’Leary and Sam Jenkins-Shaw are both really good here, even making us believe the script’s lies about ham and pineapple pizza. Continue reading “Review: Leia and the Roman, VAULT Festival”

Review: Cymbeline, Tabard Theatre

“Hath Britain all the sun that shines?”

Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare’s later plays, occupying an uneasy middle ground between tragedy, romance, comedy with a loose smattering of history thrown in for good measure and thus garnering the reputation as one of his problem plays. New London-based theatre company Avanti have taken up the challenge with their 1970s re-imagining though which is currently playing at the Tabard Theatre in West London.

It’s essentially a romance, with tragic overtones, focusing on Imogen, a princess of Britain who has secretly married her lowly childhood friend Posthumus, frustrating the plans of her wicked (step)mother. Upon finding out, her father King Cymbeline banishes him from the kingdom, and thus a whole merry load of confusions start. Posthumus is tricked into believing Imogen has been unfaithful and orders her murder, Imogen is forewarned and dispatched to Wales in the guise of a boy, there she meets two random boys who turn out to have a very strong connection to her, more betrayals and murder ensue, there’s a bit of a war, the god Jupiter pops down for a chat and then there’s an incredibly neat, yet interminably long ending in which every single plot strand is recapped and then resolved.

Perhaps it is not the most considered of opinions but it is all a bit bonkers really, incorporating so many Shakespearean devices that are familiar to us from other plays – cross-dessing princesses, potions that feign death, long-lost children, wagers about virtue – and folding them all into the one huge narrative, but matters aren’t necessarily helped by some of the creative decisions. It is set in a loose version of the 70s, all flares and flowery shirts, and in large part this is surprisingly effective: Posthumus’ defiance of society’s norm, Imogen’s rebellion against the convention’s of her parents’ generation, the singing of the young princes over a dead body feels a heartbeat away from Godspell, but these all fit well with the concept. It is less successful later on though when history kicks in as Rome invades Britain, some vaguely fascist-looking uniforms appearing lending a slightly surreal air.

Continue reading “Review: Cymbeline, Tabard Theatre”