A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!


DogOrange presents


Mary Rose


by J.M. Barrie


Directed by Matthew Parker


Brockley Jack Studio Theatre


10 – 28 May 2011



Set, for the most part, in the drawing room of a grand Sussex manor house, Mary Rose is captivating from the outset. A dusty old room containing boxes and furniture conceals a mysterious past and a tormented ghostly figure roams through the home to the sound of evocative, rhythmic music. Harry (Charlie Kerson) enters the scene to probe into the secrets of his one-time home and the family who once occupied it. Frightened and reluctant, the current housekeeper Mrs Otery (Joanna Watt) leaves Harry to his own devices at his lively insistence. With this as the starting point, the audience witnesses a series of flashbacks detailing an atmospheric tale of love and loss with equally compelling moments of domesticity and the fantastical. Scene changes are performances in and of themselves, timed to perfection, fluid and cadenced and involving all the characters, the scene faultlessly changes in moments. This ensures that the timespan of the play, set between 1884 and 1919, never presents an issue. Designed by Suneeda Maruthiyil, using a keen eye for detail combined with an imaginative approach, the set is well-constructed and versatile. The music, composed by Maria Haik Escudero, is haunting and melodic, and perfectly suited to the production in every instance. Sound effects are subtle and convincing and an intriguing flashing bulb at the start of new scenes calls to mind the flash of an old camera, capturing moments in time with a real sense of foreboding.

The plot develops in the manner of a true ghost story, with suspense and wonderment palpable in the audience throughout. An alternate scene, that of a mysterious Hebridean Island which captured the central character Mary Rose (Rachel Copsey) as a girl, is ominously enhanced by superstitious local man Cameron (Phil Bishop)who refuses to sit down there. His tales of the past delight Mary Rose in her obliviousness.  The costumes, designed by Julia Berndt, are striking - Mary Rose wears a pale delicate dress which perfectly captures her playfulness and gentle nature, while the Victorian tailoring for all the gentlemen in the play is flawless. Nicholas Hoad is superb as Mr Morland, the earnestness in his performance is sincerely affecting, both as the oblivious father of a beautiful girl, and an elderly man with a tormenting past behind him. Comic argumentative exchanges between Mr Morland and Mr Amy (Alec Gray) are expertly intercepted by Mrs Morland (Annie Julian) affording light relief from the more sombre concerns of the tale. The transformation of Simon Blake (Carsten Hayes) from hapless, overenthusiastic potential suitor to accomplished, self-assured husband and naval officer is also especially well rendered. The ghostly ensemble, in make-up designed by Einat Smulian, provides a wonderfully haunting accompaniment to many of the scenes through dance and vocals and contributes to the eerie, supernatural atmosphere which echoes effectively throughout.

In theme and resonances Mary Rose bears unmistakable resemblances to J.M Barrie’s much more famous work, Peter Pan. Agelessness and the complexity of a dual fear of/fascination with the ever-after are played out in both. The play is quite long at just under two hours howeverMary Rose should not be missed. Rarely does every element of a production slide together without crease the way this does, providing a majestic evening of escape from the “fearfully solid” structure of the everyday. 


Box Office: 0844 847 2454
Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
Tickets: £12. £10 conc



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