Review: Rouge'z Theatre Company - The Winter Gift @ Chapter
Rouge'z Theatre Company - The Winter Gift
Saturday 18th April 2015
Who has heard of silent movie star Louise Brook today?
Film buffs and historians claim her importance, but for most it's a vague recollection of an image of a girl, they may have never seen.
In proving this very importance, this newly written play by T. J. Davies, presents an approachable and absorbing look at Brooks, in two contrasting stages of her tumultuous life. Her highpoint in her career took her to Germany to play Lulu in G. W. Pabst's silent film version of Frank Wedekind's play Pandora's Box. Parallel to this, we have Brooks, decades later, as a major boozer living in the squalor of a dank New York apartment. Accept one day, she receives an unexpected guest...
Like a nervous, humble cross between Jack Lemmon and Don Knotts, James Card, performed by Robert Gairey was super in his enthusiasm and anxiety towards the crumbling movie star. Karen Thomas plays the older Louise with much cantankerous presence, a person to pity. In a large amount of scenes, a tightrope of uneasiness and curiosity in engulfed in the scenes of both characters, the dramatic peak having a gun thrown in and the C-word uttered.
At one point, Brooks yelled directly at me, suggesting lewd sexual acts to be committed on her. My heart skipped a beat and all I could do was smirk. As the younger Louise, Rhiane Cheyne played all the passion and charisma, that the real Brooks had before her carrier turned over.
As film director G. W. Pabst, Andreas Constantinou (who was recently Angelo in Everyman Theatre's Measure For Measure) was clad with a ridiculous grey wig; in one great scene physically describing in silence, over classical music, the dramatic nature of his next project without realising that Diary Of A Lost Girl would parallel elements of Brook's own childhood. Here Pabst is oozing with the determination and gumption not to use a native German actress for Pandora.
Nerys Rees who directed this show, also had some quick appearances as Marlene Dietrich, sultry and livid in not getting the role she expected from Pabst. Faebian Averies was Alice Roberts (the lesbian Countess Geschwitz for the film), a kittenish Belgian madam, conservative in her style and conveying revulsion to Brooks' actually lesbian tendencies. Ryan Felvus being a loud presence as B. P. Shulbburg, with a great American accent to boot.
The company greatly utilised the Chapter theatre space, with a small audience and a fine sense of period and mood. Elements of Brecht came in and out finishing the work of with a flourish.
Fine work honouring a forgotten star of yesteryear.
Rating: 4 Stars
Rouge'z Theatre Company's next production will be Shakespeare's Othello for 2016
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Photo Credit: Gavin Bray