A Broken Rose by Sarah Goddard
The production by Sarah Goddard tells the story of a young girl’s harrowing descent into mental illness, as she replaces reality with a delusional world of fairytales. Surrounded by a fragmented family, still staggering after the death of her father, she is forced to find an escape. In contrast to her mother, who chooses alcohol to numb life, Maria chooses a fantasy world and childhood stories. The boundaries of reality and apparition become hazy to Maria as she starts to listen to her visions and conjure images of princesses and imaginary fairies (“sun” and “moon”) in her mind. At the impressionable age of 13, lonely Maria clings to the only thing she can: her father and his fantastical stories from her upbringing.
The play is carried impressively by Louisa Lytton (Maria); the feisty EastEnders actress is transformed on stage, acting convincingly as she validates her embryonic career. Playing a girl ten years younger than herself, she malleably embodies the role of a lost and extremely naïve teenager eager to please and protect her mother, only to be continuously opposed and undermined. Her character is strong but vulnerable, and her protectiveness towards her mother, who will not give her any attention, is very touching.
The only strength within the story comes from Maria’s psychiatrist (Nicholas Boulton). Determined to fix their broken home, he tries to combat the alcoholism, violence and delusions that run rife through the household. At the heart of each form of escapism lies the loneliness of each character as they battle against each other, rather than come together. This makes for an unsettling story, and very difficult acting at times. Nicola Wright, as Maria’s mother, is inebriated for much of the story, and she depicts the irritable, depressive victim of domestic abuse disturbingly at times.
The set is circular, but cleverly manipulated to ensure that all seats are incorporated equally within the drama. It is not an easy play to watch at times. Sarah Goddard constantly tries to balance the inexperience of youth and the corruptness of experience, and incorporates way too many issues into the squat drama. There is also a strong lack of humour and often the sense that characters are saying things that contradict their natures. Occasionally there was a forced ripple of laughter out of the wooden audience, but unfortunately the play sometimes felt like an obligation rather than an enjoyment.
It is worth seeing, despite occasional histrionic moments and discrepancies within the script. The fantastical touch will not be to everyone’s taste, but the coarse reality of a family delving in escapism, and the disturbing effect of domestic violence and bereavement on a receptive teenager, are issues that are relevant, and grounded in authenticity.
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