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Duke of York’s Theatre



Duke of York’s Theatre

Reviewed – 28th May 2019



“Terera has a magnificent presence between the glib walls of Rosmersholm”


This timely revival of one of Ibsen’s least performed plays is an astonishing study of moral guilt, political struggle and the omnipresence of the past. Reminiscent of his earlier work ‘Ghosts’, this shows Ibsen at his dark and daring best. Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation of Karin and Anne Bamborough’s literal translation delivers Ibsen into the twenty-first century, creating a witty, if not a little wordy, drama for our times.

Weighed down by the memory of his dead wife, John Rosmer (Tom Burke) shares his vast estate with a “liberated woman” in the form of Rececca West (Hayley Atwell), his former wife’s former friend. Rosmer’s brother-in-law Andreas Kroll (a superbly on-form Giles Terera) has political aspirations, but his call for support is radically rebuffed as Rosmer turns his attention to the progressive politics of Peter Mortensgaard (Jake Fairbrother). Invoking concepts such as representational democracy and ‘the will of the people’, MacMillan makes sure this play speaks to the current climate, and some knowing chuckles from the audience suggested this relevance did not go unnoticed. Kroll is a fascinating figure, charmingly aristocratic yet stubbornly conservative, and Terera has a magnificent presence between the glib walls of Rosmersholm.

At the heart of the drama though is Rosmer and West’s relationship: can they break free of the past and learn to love each other? Rae Smith’s stunningly decrepit design makes it seem unavoidable. Portraits of the Rosmer family cover every wall, a constant reminder to John of his family’s legacy. Neil Austin’s lighting is similarly evocative, with striking shafts of light breaking through the dusty windows to expose the age and dereliction of this once great home.

Ian Rickson’s production will please West End crowds looking for a timely reminder that politics runs in circle. Rosmer and West struggle to forget the past – are we too quick to? Although I’m no fan of weighty naturalism, with a gorgeous set and memorable performances, this production has plenty to offer.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Johan Persson



Duke of York’s Theatre until 20th July


Previously covered by this reviewer:
Donal The Numb | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Queer Trilogy | ★★★ | Drayton Arms | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | April 2019
Swimming | ★★★★ | White Bear Theatre | April 2019
The Wasp | ★★★★ | The Space | April 2019
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | Rose Playhouse | April 2019
Harper Regan | ★★★★ | Tabard Theatre | May 2019
Scripts for Supper: The Wind in the Willows | ★★★★★ | Stepney City Farm | May 2019
Why The Child Is Cooking In The Polenta | ★★ | Gate Theatre | May 2019


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Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour – 4*


Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York’s Theatre

Media Night – 16th May 2017


“St Trinian’s meets Trainspotting”


Based on Alan Warner’s 1998 novel ‘The Sopranos’, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour was adapted for the stage by Lee Hall (best known for Billy Elliott). It first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015, subsequently toured the UK and had a sell-out run at the National Theatre last year.

Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula), Caroline Deyga (Chell), Karen Fishwick (Kay) Isis Hainsworth (Orla), Frances Mayli McCann (Kylah) and Kirsty MacLaren (Manda)

The story seems at first seems innocuous enough, six convent school girls from Oban taking part in an annual choir competition in Edinburgh. Indeed the show starts with a charming rendition of Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes. But liberated for a day from their insular home town and regimented school life, these girls intend to enjoy every last minute of their time in the Scottish capital, and this doesn’t involve an afternoon seeing the sights.

What follows is heady mix of booze, sex, a host of undesirables and yet more booze. This is St. Trinian’s meets Trainspotting – a foul mouthed journey that sees the girls lose their uniforms and lose their inhibitions.  One girl even sees a vision of her father in a pile of seawood and that’s before they’ve sampled the magic mushroom lager …

Yet amongst the coarseness and vulgarity, this is also a very touching tale of teenagers’ lives. In a non-stop performance (105 minutes), the play handles everything from teen pregnancy to coming out, friendships to mortality. 

The young cast are all excellent, each bringing alive the six very different personalities of the girls with perfection. Accompanied by an on stage three piece band the girls delight us with musical numbers ranging from angelic harmonies to belting ELO classics.

At times it’s not an easy watch, sometimes because of the extremely graphic sexual humour (the person sat beside me was squirming with embarrassment at the constant talk of ‘jizz’ and ‘spunk’), sometimes because of the touching sub-plots, but mostly because this reflects aspects of real life that we’d rather ignore – a spiral of sex, alcohol and drugs with little hope of escape.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is at the Duke of York’s Theatre until September 2nd.




Production Photography by Manuel Harlan