ROMA AND THE FLANNELETTES: A LOVE LIKE YOURS
by Richard Cameron.
Theatre By The Lake (Studio) Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 10 November 2012.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 August.
In the end showing love and power don’t go together.
Along with valuable revivals of modern drama, Keswick’s Studio is developing a track-record of premieres. Richard Cameron’s new play is the most prestigious in terms of its author, and adventurous in its subject. Set in what would be northern urban society from London’s viewpoint, it’s useful to remember that the South Yorkshire setting is quite a way south from the Lake District geographically, and most of a world away in terms of its social make-up.
Yet the subject is one that’s doubtless cropped-up in rural as well as urban areas, and most likely for ages past. If there’s anything unusual in Cameron’s treatment it’s that he excludes the ethnic element prominent in examples that have hit the headlines in recent years.
If you’re wondering what it’s all about, such a delay is what makes the first act frustrating. It’s not the short scenes, mainly set in a women’s refuge managed by Brenda and supported financially by George, that are the trouble but that they don’t move things far forward.
On film this could be slow-burning accumulation of detail, but on stage the actors, and therefore characters, are what matter. And these seem to be going nowhere in a mix of detached events and hints about relationships around vulnerable young women Delie and Roma.
Delie’s devised a musical act for the refuge, its intention clarified in the discord of the action between the close-harmony Ronette-style rehearsal and performance framing the play.
If the first half alienates by padding around the situation, the second act grips as events and their impact on everyone – including the older Jean, recovering from her own unhappy experiences – emerge.
Eventually, Cameron’s played a strong hand that avoids the pitfall of giving cruelty an exciting edge. Stefan Escreet’s production helps, its performances particularly strong among the women – neither philanthropic George nor a side-plot involving Benda with community policeman Jim seem as fully imagined by Cameron.
And Jessica Ellis is outstanding as compulsively obsessed Delie, whose concert preparations are an attempt to believe in herself and do something in her life that doesn’t lead to a shameful secret.
George: Stephen Aintree.
Delie: Jessica Ellis.
Brenda: Nicky Goldie.
Jim: Philip Rham.
Roma: Augustina Seymour.
Jean: Louise Yates.
Director: Stefan Escreet.
Designer/Costume: Thomasin Marshall.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound: Matt Hall.
Musical Director:Richard Atkinson.
Movement: Ella Vale.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Peter Maqueen.