Fear of Roses follows three women as they grapple with each other’s careers in a power struggle which soon turns deadly. Black Bat Productions describes their 60-minute thriller as a “fast-paced, darkly comedic crime story.” It is decidedly dark and there’s more crime knocking about than you’d find in a courtroom, but the “comedy” element is somewhat oversold. Funny? Not particularly. Still worth seeing? Absolutely.
Settle in for a twisty ride
Meet Tammy. She’s an important bank manager who takes great pride in her position while harbouring insatiable ambitions to rise beyond it. Commandingly brought to life by Amy Gillbrook, she finds her perfect plans falling apart on the eve of a promotion, not that she’ll let that get in the way of walking all over her downtrodden assistant. In that role, Amelia Chinnock-Schumann should have an axe to grind and nothing to lose, but her innocent outlook might make her ripe for manipulation. Their world, like most depictions of big-buck banking, appears permanently on the brink of corruption and collapse. Newcomer Keeley enters it like an incendiary bomb. Promises of blackmail and robbery draped in an oldschool trench coat prove more than enough to push the other women over the edge. Pick your team and settle in for a twisty ride to find out who comes out on top.
The performances are mostly strong, although Daniella Cunliffe’s Keely is given significantly less to do by a playwright who seems much more interested in the other characters. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the mysteriousness of the mysterious stranger prevails throughout. Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller’s writing borrows this archetype from classic noir, an inspiration reflected by a score which sounds directly transposed from a 50s detective film. This makes an interesting contrast to the overtly modern setting, but I’m not convinced it assists the play’s tension. Jazz-infused instrumentals are more reminiscent of a coffeeshop chillout playlist these days. Still, it’s nice to see music used creatively in relation to the action.
Everything takes place in the same space, which makes a few demands on your suspension of disbelief; it requires a manager’s office with a well-stocked cash safe to have no CCTV and also happen be the post of the overnight security guard, but it does allow for lightning-fast transitions. With a lot of exposition to get across, the script isn’t always so speedy. It does manage to gracefully incorporate character development, and a few of the lines are strikingly good.
Fear of Roses easily keeps you absorbed for its entire runtime, spinning an inventive new take on a familiar genre. But don’t just take my word for it, go see it for yourself.