Review: The Roaring Girl

Category: Drama, General, Events

Jane Darby’s production of The Roaring Girl was a hilarious romp through Jacobean gender politics reset in the underground cauldron of blurred lines; The False Tails bar in central London, 2014.

Leila Tinne (LI U6) in the title role was a genuine enigma; leather clad, hair in dreadlocks and switching easily between femme fatale and playboy.  What was most impressive in this performance was the way Leila managed to weave in such genuine empathy, as well as hints of isolation and tragedy amidst all of the aggression. ‘Love’, as she sings, ‘is a losing game’

Equally impressive was Tatiana Chater Davies (MM U6) as Ms. Gallipot the simmering cabaret artist whose life on the stage in the inner-play was beautifully reflected in her own personal struggles.  Backed up by a fantastic band of musicians Tatiana produced songs, comedy acts and poignant moments of loneliness.  She was brilliantly supported by Ilya Wray (C3 U6) and Sam Appleton (B1 U6) as the warring clowns competing for her affections.  Ilya, clad only in a striped unitard and studded codpiece (But rumour lies – that he in France was dead!) gave a brave and thoroughly shameless performance as the heroic and lustful Laxton, brilliantly foiled by the squeaking and desperate cuckold portrayed by Sam Appleton’s Gallipot.  Jack Nithvrianakis (LI U6) gave a commanding performance as Sir Alexander, the owner of the The False Tails and protective father to Sebastian (Tom Symington B1 L6), whose desire to marry Mary Fitzallard (Helena Bell MM U6) gave rise to the farcical chain of events.  Both Tom and Helena gave outstanding performances as the young lovers caught up in a world that had forgotten the rules of courtly romance; a society obsessed instead with blurring the lines of sin, lust, vice and liberty.  There were many impressive performances in supporting roles; James Guinness’ (C3 U6) drunk argument with a jacket being a particular highlight.  Kit Edcumbe-Rendle’s (PR L6) Mr. Openwork was a dim-witted delight providing much comedy for Izzie Foster’s (EL L6) frustrated and hard-working wife.  Flora Baring (MM U6) gave a darkly comic performance as the mysterious Goshawk providing a still and gothic contrast to Tilly Bowyer-Knight’s (EL U6) acrobatic Trapdoor.  Hermione Llewelyn-Bowen (CO L6) was sharp and commanding as Mrs. Fitzallard the protective mother of the bride with a family empire at stake. The constant support provided by the ensemble was outstanding both in creating the genuine atmosphere of the bar as much as in taking lead roles in the aggressive and brilliantly choreographed fight sequences. 

Paul Cox’s set design was simply outstanding re-creating a contemporary London bar in fantastic detail.  This in turn was populated by an array of gender-bending costumes from Dale Armitage and a seedy, glowing lighting design from Josh Entecott.  All of this was governed by an outstanding stage manager; Keya Punja (MO L6), whose meticulous attention to detail provided the foundation for such a professional and creative production.  Wildly energetic, fast paced and sharp; a tribute to the director’s ability to tame and harness such a sprawling Jacobean text and unlock the contemporary issues within it.  I am still surprised at how the gender debates of 400 years ago can still be burning hot today.

The performance was topped and tailed by the cautious words of Ben Cameron’s (LI U6) Prologue, ‘some perhaps do flout the plot, saying ‘tis too thin, too weak, too mean; and ‘some for the person will revile the scene’ and yet in the liberal spirit of the play intones the maxim ‘If we to every brain that’s humorous should fashion scenes, we, with the painter, shall in striving to please all, please none at all’. 

David Kenworthy
Head of Drama

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