Mr Barrie has a way with mysterious islands. If not imagining troupes of raucous boys and pirates on them, he is inventing an isle of sounds and mischief.
Mary Rose is one of J.M Barrie’s lesser-known plays, but the story is gripping in its simplicity: set in the late 18th Century, it tells the story of how a ghost came to be waiting for her boy in an abandoned Sussex mansion.
The beautiful open set enables the story to move through 35 years, needing only small rearrangements for a change of scenery.
While the story works, the execution by DogOrange Theatre is solid but not perfect. After having performed two one-act plays, director Matthew Parker wanted to tackle a piece that embraced a larger cast and ensemble. Unfortunately, the Riverside studio space is noticeably small when you add an eight-headed chorus to the cast.
The chorus plays huge part in this piece, through their reoccurrence and symbolism. The strength of their powerful vocal soundscaping was marvellous and thoroughly complimented the text and direction. But their portrayed spirits quickly lose their charm and lightness, as they dodge closely spaced set pieces. A movement scene was clunky and exercise-like, instead of amazing us with acrobatics, because of an evident lack of space. The concept is clear, but the inevitable conflict of embodying apparitions with a large group solid bodies made this vision unsuccessful.
The title role is played by Jessie Cave, who previously appeared as Lavender Brown in the Harry Potter movies. She captures Mary Rose’s sweet innocence and flightiness well, almost too well; I felt at times she lacked the presence to fully engage. Carsten Hayes as the bumbling Simon is wonderful however, his skills increasingly evident through various incarnations of his character.
In all, Mary Rose is an entertaining production, even if it is in a large part due to J.M. Barrie’s incredible storytelling skill.