Away With the Fairies…

A Broken Rose at Cockpit Theatre.

Sarah Goddard’s powerful play is brilliantly executed. This Five One production is highly engaging and Phil Willmott directs with an ear for the subtleties in the writing. Beautifully written, marvellously acted and exquisitely delivered, this is an excellent show and well worth a watch. At The Cockpit Theatre.


Once upon a time – “as that’s how all good stories begin” – a theatre reviewer went to see a show and was utterly blown away. Sarah Goddard’s A Broken Rose is a truly beautiful play that tells the story of a young girl who lives in contrasting worlds: the realm in between childhood innocence and tainted adulthood, the empty space cushioning the land of the fairies and a much darker reality. Thirteen year old Maria (Louisa Lytton) befriends Sun (Amy Barnes) and Moon (Chris Barley), two fairies from the land of the Gold, where Maria rightfully belongs. Through their tumultuous friendship, Maria learns that she is actually a princess – but before she can rule her kingdom, she needs to pass three tests. These challenges become increasingly difficult as Maria makes the transition from innocence to adolescence, all the while ridiculed by her alcoholic mother and scrutinized by the man who has forced his way into her dead father’s shoes.

Although the content could be subject to stereotype, the writing is natural, believable and touching. Sarah Goddard captures the essence of lost youth and the play celebrates the power of imagination and the complexities of the psyche. It is a sensitive take on the fragile human condition and explores grief in an original way. The text is complemented by evident research: Goddard’s portrayal of the caring psychiatrist is totally convincing and laced with psychological explanation and reasoning.

The powerful script is brilliantly executed. This Five One production is highly engaging and Phil Willmott directs with an ear for the subtleties in the writing. It could be easy to embellish and sensationalize the material, but this piece is handled with integrity and sensitivity, which makes it even more poignant. The show flew by – a testament to the production values – and in the space of a hundred minutes I was moved from laughter to tears, from anger to empathy.

The cast of six is incredibly strong. Louisa Lytton is an adorable Maria – I just wanted to give her a hug. To be blatantly honest, I didn’t know how her transition from Eastenders to the Fringe would pan out … but Lytton is amazing and any reservation I had was quashed into oblivion the moment she stepped on stage. Playing a ‘coming of age’ teen must be a challenge for any actress, but Lytton’s performance is honest, heartfelt and utterly compelling.

Nick Boulton’s performance as psychiatrist Dr. Cole is equally as strong – creating a tender relationship dynamic between the two. Nicola Wright’s take on Jess, Maria’s vulnerable and deeply unhappy mother, results in a carefully carved performance. Wright strikes the appropriate balance between a damaged soul and a mother who, despite all she’s been through, is still capable of unconditional love.

Emma Tompkin’s set conveys a dual sense of reality: below we have a homely living room, and above are suspended gold branches – apparently acting as the veil that divides the world as we know it and an alternative dimension. The visual component is refreshed during the interval with a simple flip round of the set. Sitting in-the-round, everyone gets the opportunity to witness a different side of the house, whilst simultaneously observing opposing mental states.

The only reason I’m not awarding this show five stars is because I have one niggling criticism. Every time the fairies became assigned narrators to the bedtime stories, I lost concentration. This didn’t happen when Maria recited such tales – so I can only imagine my wandering mind was triggered by the actual fables, or the mystical trancelike background music, or the actors. Either way, it’s only a small criticism; one that doesn’t tilt the scale.

Beautifully written, marvellously acted and exquisitely delivered, this is an excellent show and well worth a watch. In fact, I’d like to go and see it again! It is a charming play; one that pulls on the heart strings and stirs the soul.

Date reviewed: Thursday 13th September 2012

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