Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Sub Rosa" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Sub Rosa draws audiences into the murky world of music hall troupes and artist exploitation at the Winter Palace theatre. The story of young Flora McIvor’s revolution against cruel theatre manager Mr Hunter unfolds gradually as we move from room to room encountering members of the company. Pay close attention as seemingly throwaway remarks may take on huge significance before the end.

The six strong cast of Adam McNamara, Angela Darcy, Isabelle Joss, Benny Young, Isabella Jarrett and Clare Dargo give compelling performances and with the audience often only inches a genuine connection can be created. It’s unfair of me to single out one performance above the others but Jarrett's steel eyed callousness was chilling beyond belief.

David Leddy's tale is gruesome in the extreme and there are times since the show I've wished it was a little less unforgettable. In many ways the show is a puzzle and while the outcome of the artists' rebellion is eventually revealed to us, other aspects are left very much for the audience to piece together. Technically the show is almost flawless - the only problem we encountered were a couple of occasions where views of the performers were restricted if you were unfortunate enough to have a tall person in front of you. There are several sets of audiences each night and many of these will be in the venue simultaneously - yet the way we are moved around by our guides ensures that we feel as though our group is in an otherwise empty space.

The script has been tweaked from the production that we adored at the Citizens last year to take account of its new location in a Masonic Lodge but while lighting and sound help to create an intense atmosphere, the venue simply can’t accommodate some of the most striking visuals from that earlier show. In its new home Sub Rosa is unquestionably a marvellous piece of theatre – but it remains a piece of theatre. The previous incarnation in the backstage spaces at the Citz was so utterly immersive that it felt like we were watching the past unfold in front of our eyes.

But while it may have lost a little bit of magic in the move to Edinburgh, for anyone who loves theatre, Sub Rosa will probably still be the best thing they see at the Fringe this year.

David Leddy's Sub Rosa is a Fire Exit production in association with the Citizens Theatre. The show runs several times each night until 30th August. Audiences meet at New Town Theatre at 96 George Street before walking to the venue.
Image by Douglas McBride used with permission.