‘Burning Rose’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by April 12, 2018

‘Burning Rose’ is a flourish of devised, universal pieces from Gap II of The Actors’ Hub, a group committed to helping actors reach their goal.

In Christian mythology, a rose bush was also said to have grown at the site of Christ’s death. In mythology the Burning Rose is associated with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, often adorned all over with roses, found a rose bush sprouting from the blood of her slain lover Adonis.

These two surreal and yet very moving stories, play each evening in The Actors’ Hub headquarters, 129 Kensington Street, East Perth. Curtain up on this fast moving, action packed 60-minute show is at 7.00 pm, and runs until Saturday 14th April, with a Saturday matinée 2.00 pm. A warm welcome is guaranteed from Marie Corrigan and Helen Connor and their team.

 

The stage is empty. An actor sprinkles leaves in front of a fan. Autumn has arrived.

The complex, but effective lighting design was by Dean Moran and smoothly operated by Adam William.

 

      The performance begins with a short overture, led by the maestro (Kyle Kash). Twelve musicians enter each with a different ‘instrument’, ranging from plastic bottles, to a reticulation pipe didgeridoo, a steel wobble-board, and even cardboard boxes – all things that brought a unique sound, which amazingly blended into a well-balanced orchestra.

       The play began with a major type of love, a pregnant woman (Steph Bedford) being wheeled in on a gurney; but just as the delivery was about to begin, the whole hospital shook as an earthquake moved through. This effect was particularly well produced. The cast staggered and rocked the bed, as a group of musicians beat several 60 cms tambours and kettle drums, filling the auditorium with a thunderous noise.

        A girl is taken in by a strict mother (Chloé Gaskell) with several delinquent sons (Joshua Hogben, Jared Stephenson, Sam Barbas, and David Doig); the boys are desperate for a girlfriend and jealously fight for her attention.

       There then followed neighbourly love, depicted in the post-quake pandemonium with the saving of orphaned children and burying the dead. We watch as children grow. A poor woman (Rachel Lewis) eventually finds a true love with a sex magnet (Josh Hogben), and with the use of a couple of chairs, half the Kama Sutra is hilariously demonstrated by the young couple.

       In the second play, a Mexican supermodel (Gillian Mosenthal) is preparing for her wedding, attended by her dress designers (guitarist, Talia Hart and Tia Rose) as she is serenaded by Spanish singer (Kyle Kash), and accompanying guitarist (new look, Jared Stephenson). In her dreams, her husband is to be a cow farmer and we see him handling the herd as they are taken to the slaughterhouse and in a scene that will delight every vegan, we see the animals dismembered and processed.

       Throughout this second play, the tambours, chimes and a couple of 2-metre vuvuzelas (the ear-splitting trumpets that the Africans take to the soccer matches) sounded by various musicians and singers, including Patrick Truman-Healy and Richard Maganga.

 

The director, Ellis Pearson is renowned for his innovative soundscapes that include weird and wonderful musical instruments.  An actor and theatre-maker for almost 40 years, Pearson has been in large and small ensembles that have performed in numerous countries around the world. A few years ago Ellis gained an award for his acting when he starred in a controversial and bold African film that was nominated for a Foreign Film Oscar. His acting company ‘Theatre for Africa’ won a First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Wow, this was an enthralling, dynamic pair of plays. Although there was minimal dialogue, the very strong cast worked their hearts out and with the help of director Ellis, skilfully elucidated every emotion in a melange of vision and sound. Most of the audience will relate to these sensitive and imaginative experiences that showed youngsters struggling with a rollercoaster of love affairs and horrendous situations.

Even with a large cast, the action was slick and smooth. Everyone was focused and knew their next move, flawlessly moving around the stage.

At no stage did I feel an audience member, from the opening sequence we all became part of the action. Superb work.