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As part of the London Fringe Festival

 Rose Theatre presents



Writer/Director: Tracy Keeling


Assistant Director: Belinda Wylie


Fine Artist: Jake Spicer


Musician: Sorana Santos


Rose Theatre


5 Aug – 27 Aug








A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Situated in Bankside, under a bridge, just around the corner from Shakespeare’s Globe, the Rose Theatre is located on the archaeological remains of its predecessor, dating back to 1587. The original building was similar in design to the modern Globe and was London's first theatre south of the river.

Pawnography takes place in Purgatory, where the The Marquis de Sade (Graham Hornsby) dominates the imprisoned Juliet (Lucy Grainger) and the wingless Cupid (Adam Elliott), trapped in cells adjacent to each other. While Juliet awaits her beloved Romeo (Adam Hall), she attempts to resist the lecherous advances of The Marquis, finding her only solace in Cupid...

The actors perform in front of a fence that blocks off the remains of The Rose; as it is an archaeological site, permission has not yet been granted for them to act over the actual remains. Keeling suggests that a piece of glass will eventually cover it. Behind the actors is a dark, cavernous space illuminated with red lights that gives the impression of a sea of fire. The inability to enter this space and the awkward staging running alongside the fence aptly reflects the play’s atmosphere of being in limbo. The set is divided into three sections, with red fairy lights in the floor separating the two cells, while a raised section of rostra on the audience's far right, acts as the domain for the Marquis. A sketch of a classical temple with a wall dividing the cells is projected beside the Marquis's stage, giving the audience an idea of how we are supposed to imagine Purgatory.

Lucy Grainger in a short black dress and crucifix round her neck plays Juliet. Grainger's large eyes convey a timorous quality in the face of the libidinous Marquis, as she manages to convey both the meekness of a frightened lamb and a brave, nobility. Her voice sustains a soft, hushed charm in keeping with her innocence.

Adam Elliott as Cupid wears shredded white trousers, revealing a number of cuts and welts on his legs. Two tufts of feathers on his back represent his torn wings. Elliott evokes a strong sense of frustration as he clutches his tight blonde curls, tortuously writhing on the floor. He portrays a strong sense of justice and acts almost like Juliet's older brother, in his fierce attempts to protect her, but wingless and without his bow he is impotent to retaliate against the Marquis. Elliott's slight lisp adds a warmth and endearing aspect to his character.

The Marquis de Sade played by Graham Hornsby in white shirt, breeches and red stockings, waltzes round the stage with syphilitic lethargy, his face a jaundiced hue. He mops the sweat from his brow as he lecherously solicits the virginal Juliet. Hornsby spends much of the production overlooking the proceedings from his stage strewn with roses, declaiming his filthy rhyming couplets in a spurious French accent to his captives below. Hornsby manages to entertain the audience with his risible, smutty remarks and foppish torpor but perhaps, lacks the strong enough stage presence worthy of such a domineering character.

Kitty Chapman as Psyche in a white dress enjoys the attention of Adam Hall as Romeo in black shirt. In one particularly provocative scene, Chapman removes the arrows from Hall's back and as he stiffens in agony, Chapman moans with sexual delight. Keeling teases us with her scene of inverse penetration that results in Chapman and Hall spending a good deal of the show entwined in a torrid embrace.

The sound of a fly is inventively repeated, echoing the rhythm of La Bamba, allowing the audience to imagine the foetid conditions of purgatory. It is also used practically as a device in one of Cupid’s pivotal scenes.

A great deal of Keeling's script is in verse, which gives a playful, wickedness to the overarching eroticism of the play. In fact the actors should be congratulated for not ‘corpsing’, as many of the lines are so explicit they could never work outside the form of verse. At the same time however, the overuse of rhyme tends to undermine the Marquis's menace and may at times feels a bit contrived. There is also the danger that verse lulls the audience into a hypnotic state but Keeling does manage to do her best to keep the rhymes pithy and acerbic.

Overall Pawnography is cleverly staged, in an atmospheric venue which coincidentally lends itself to the setting of the play. Keeling delights in the seamy juxtaposition between the purity of Juliet and the perversity of The Marquis de Sade, a relationship Grainger and Hornsby portray with amusing disparity. Keeling's language allows us to revel in a debauched world, where her heroic couplets carry an intentional bathos; to further the contradictory essence and bring the fluid exchanges between characters to life.

If Pawnography were a person, they would be sitting in the waiting room of an NHS Sexual Health clinic, driven mad by the delay, spouting rhymes deliriously in a syphilitic inertia; the purgatory of the modern day. 


Box office: 020 7261 9565


The Rose Theatre
21 New Globe Walk,
London SE1 9DT

5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 20th, 22nd, 25th, 27th, 29th August

All performances at 7:30pm (except Sunday 8th and 22nd at 3:00pm only) 
Tickets £10.00 / £8.00 concessions

On Sunday 29th there will be a double bill: Pawnography at 3:00pm & Buried Alive at 5:00pm.

Joint ticket offer £15 / £12 Concessions





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