Roger is an old man with a whisky-soaked voice and nicotine-stained hands. His pale yellow skin and grumpy demeanour does little to make the audience warm to him. He is 87 years old and his health is declining as he sits alone in his grey and decrepit flat all day long smoking cigarettes and wasting his time in front of the television. Roger is also a finely crafted and delicately designed puppet and the main focus of young and innovative theatre company Spark and Dark's new performance.
Roger is controlled by Nicolas Halliwell (who is also the voice) and Louisa Ashton (the show’s co-writer). Each performer controls one of Roger’s arms. As he is an old man his movement is restricted and most of his dexterity comes from his expressive hands, which spend most of their time holding a cigarette. Roger is not entirely alone though. He is visited by a young college student called Billy, played by Graham Dron. Billy is interested in philosophy and decided to help the old man as part of his college course. He is initially restrained and reluctant around Roger but eventually, through Dron’s excellent performance, we see Billy grow and warm to Roger. During the performance Billy undertakes mundane tasks such as making tea. These actions are sound-tracked by a Lawrence Illsley who plays guitar live on stage and his innovative effects and evocative sounds remove any boredom or tiredness from the performance and truly augment the visuals.
Killing Roger is an important piece of theatre. Writer/Director Shelly Knowles-Dixon does not hold back when asking questions on care for the elderly and the topic of assisted dying. The conclusion of the performance is touching, shocking and visually stunning. This can be put down to the performance and ability of Graham Dron and his relationship to the expertly designed and controlled puppet of Roger.
Killing Roger is a powerful theatre piece which expresses raw emotion and presents puppetry in a new, challenging and refreshing light. Plaudits have to go to Sparkle and Dark for tackling such a subject with an expressive and challenging tone.