After an incredibly successful run with their inaugural season, The Other Room Theatre Company at Porters Bar in Cardiff had somewhat of a reputation to maintain. From their announcement of their autumn season, entitled ‘Blue Sky’, I was very excited.
Blud tells the story of Rita (Francesca Marie Claire), a football nut, and her sister Lou (Olivia Elsden), as they get embroiled in the age-old tradition of local football rivalry. Events get out of hand when Rita kidnaps a Premier League football player to fuel a dying feud. The scenario acts as a catalyst for Rita and Lou to battle out their family strife inherited from a troubled childhood.
Sadly, the piece did not quite live up to the initial excitement I had when I arrived to the theatre. While the concept has the potential to work, the scenes within this production do not seem to fit together as seamlessly as they could. There is also a need to ‘get to the point’ within the writing: it often feels that we are witnessing the same sequence of action repeating itself over and over again. There is the distinct sense that the piece would benefit with two or three more weeks of workshopping to iron these issues out.
There are a few staging issues also, for example, one of many times Rita threatens her sister there is, what feels like, around three minutes where Rita has her back to the audience. There were a few points I questioned how long the company had access to the space as it felt that this piece didn’t quite connect with its surroundings.
However, where the staging falls down the characterisation within the piece rises up. It was clear that the director (Anna Poole) and the actors worked particularly hard on the relationship between the two characters which always remained sisterly – warts and all. Francesca Marie Claire is strong as Rita, but it took her a while to convince me of this: during her opening monologue I wanted to glue her feet to the floor so I could take what she was saying in without the distraction of shuffling feet. From then on, other than a few repeats of the shuffling habit, I enjoyed her performance. Olivia Elsden was excellent in her role as Lou, providing a wonderful bow-eyedness in her portrayal of the nuisance sibling.
There is potential in this piece but it hasn’t hit the nail on the head quite yet. Or as Morecombe and Wise might put it: they are playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.