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Mary Rose - Riverside Studios (Review)

Mary Rose

Review by Shanna Schreuder

USING an ensemble cast of ghosts, director Matthew Parker has given J.M. Barrie’s ghost story Mary Rose a new stint of life.

Harry Potter actress Jessie Cave takes on the title role and succeeds in working her magic by portraying the childlike innocence of the character without appearing too childish.

This production of Mary Rose begins with the eerie sound of ghoulish choral singing, which effectively sets the apprehensive mood that’s needed for a gothic tale to fright a modern audience.

From the start we’re as uneasy about the spiritual presents in the dilapidated house as the haggard old caretaker, Mrs Otery, who has been instructed to show the cocky young Australian gent, Harry, around the place.

He has memories of the estate, but an explanation for this is not apparent until after the main story of the play is set in motion by the group of spirits who take us on a trip into the past.

With a couple of swift set changes the drawing room is transformed into a well-preserved living space where a middle-aged Mr and Mrs Morland enjoy the company of their old friend, Mr Amy. This light-hearted scene contrasts well with the previous one and heightens the devastation that’s sure to follow.

However, it’s not until Mary Rose appears and tells her parents that Simon is planning to ask for her hand in marriage that we get a real sense of doom.

Having promised each other that they would tell Mary Rose’s future suitor about an incident that happened to her seven years ago, Mr and Mrs Morland tell Simon when they’re alone with him that their daughter disappeared for 20 days when she was on holiday with them in the Outer Hebrides.

Not put off by this, the two youngsters marry, have a son whom they name Harry, and go in search of the mysterious island where she vanished all those years ago. The inevitable happens and Mary Rose goes missing again, but this time she remains gone for years rather than days.

Like Jessie Cave, the rest of the cast do not disappoint. There’s great comic chemistry between Joanna Watt’s Mrs Otery and Charlie Kerson’s Harry, as well as between Alec Grey’s Mr Amy and Nicholas Hoad’s Mr Morland.

Their back-and-forth banter is lively and familiar and, on occasions, quite endearing. Carsten Hayes as the enamoured husband of Mary Rose, Simon Blake, is suitably silly and unworldly.

This is a production that comes highly recommended.

Showing at the Riverside Studios from March 28 – April 28, 2012.

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