A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!






A Broken Rose


Maria (Louisa Lytton) and Dr. Cole (Nick Boulton)

Photo: Scott Rylander


Written by Sarah Goddard

Directed by Phil Willmott


Cockpit Theatre


11 – 30 September 2012


At the start of A Broken Rose we see thirteen year old Maria, played with razor-clarity by Louisa Lytton, engrossed in a jig-saw puzzle. It serves as a leitmotif for the production as a whole as she weaves about her a fantasised world in order to protect her mother and herself. Maria’s story is bleak: her father is dead, her mother, Jess, takes pills and has an abusive lover, Johnny, who treats their home as either doss or whore house. 

Conjured from the Land of Gold are the figures of Sun and Moon who come to claim their Princess, Maria; first she must capture innocence and satisfy three challenges. While the figure of Moon manifests as Maria’s father, we’re in classic fairy-tale territory. A theme carried on by Dr Cole, (played by Nick Boultonin - a sensitive and quietly intense performance) who brings her a copy of Grimm’s Tales.

Emma Tomkins’ compact and neatly designed set, with its autumnal/winter shades, faded dun-brown leather sofa, and a table which sits on what looks like a huge, golden leaf, focuses the action very effectively. Suspended overhead is a chandeliered collection of leafless branches. A clever urban/fantasy combination, as many of Maria’s stories are set in forests or woods.

The in-the-round setting ratchets up the tension, but was sometimes a disservice to Sun and Moon who could only ‘walk in’ to the action. Amy Barnes and Chris Barley, Sun and Moon respectively, were at their best in their juxtaposed scenes featuring Dr Cole and Maria. The two appear in an idealised form, as ciphers rather than fleshed out characters, from a young child’s viewpoint. This is deliberate. Yet Maria,in Sarah Goddard’s script is thirteen going on fourteen, not seven. She is mystified by menstruation yet knows the meaning of whore.

Goddard is ambiguous. A Broken Rose is a tale of delusion brought on by Maria’s extreme grief for her dead father. It is also about crushed flowers and false hope, and a modern spin on Scheherazade’s spun Arabian tales which may ultimately save her from death. We see Sun and Moon, just as Maria does - occasionally there are hints that her mother does too, or so Maria would like to think. But Maria’s viewpoints are not always reliable. Anger, not boredom, brings them on, and increasingly they become aggressive in their demands, particularly Sun. 

Goddard has an ear for authentic speech and some scenes, particularly those between mother (Nicola Wright) and daughter just crackle, off-set by moments of extreme tenderness such as when Jess asks Maria to tell her a story. The least defined character is Johnny (John Last) - a one-dimensional thug, given a set of emotional reversals at the play’s end. This is justified if we stay with Maria’s viewpoint, but ultimately, we do not.

Nonetheless, the production is atmospheric and drives towards its inevitable conclusion, with a few unexpected turns, cleverly orchestrated by director Phil Willmott along the way. With original music composed by John-Paul Bowman, strains of Whiter Shade of Pale and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, melancholy is the over-riding minor key, captured superbly by lighting designer Tom Boucher.

A Broken Rose is billed as a vehicle for ex-Eastenders’ teen Louisa Lytton. She doesn’t disappoint. For all the play’s inconsistencies Lytton delivers a convincing, unflinching performance, cocooned in a world of her own making which we wholeheartedly believe in.



Cockpit Theatre
Gateforth Street,
Tuesday - Sunday at 7.30pm
Tickets: £15.00 (£13.00 concs)
inclusive of all booking fees
Box office: 0207 258 2925
or online at www.thecockpit.org.uk


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