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Four Ladders, Seven Brothers, a Couple of Brooms and a whole lotta laughs



Review by Emma Whitelaw

BASED on the ancient Indian folktale of Kora and his sister, Rough Cut Theatre’s Four Ladders, Seven Brothers and a Couple of Brooms, currently showing at the Oh!Art Centre, is a interesting combination of traditional Indian folklore and a martial arts movie.

Like most folklore tales, among the magic, mischief and mayhem, there is a life lesson to be learned.

The show tells the story of seven brothers - the seven sons of the once great fighter, Lardo.

It is a cautionary tale of a family that turns upon its weakest members in a bid to save face – a tale where pride overrules common sense.

Six of the brothers are interestingly played by women. Much like the characters within a Martial Arts movie, the brothers all have their own distinct characteristics and fighting methods.

Raven kills in the dreams of others. Shh is present in the space that isn’t.

Dagra, fingers of death. Rass, jabbing elbow. Ecka, limbs like blades. Horace, leg of horse.

Even more fascinating is the fact that the eldest and most effeminate son is played by a man, Craig Blake.

Blake is superb as the violence resisting brother, Kora. Having lived his entire life surrounded by his aggressive combat-loving brothers and father, Kora is a curious character.

Much the gentleman, Kora refuses to succumb to their fighting ways.

This denial becomes most prevalent when the six brothers band together and try to drown their baby sister.

From then on, Kora dedicates his life to one of peace and protecting his little sister.

A town and family tradition beckons the eldest son of Lardo to join the combat ranks.

Whenever a woman comes of age, the single men of the town are called upon, and from which two must fight to the maiming.

The six brothers are wicked and relish every opportunity to fight.

They all marry women they’ve fought and won for; narrow-mindedly believing that this is the only way.

Kora shames his family by his dismissal of such a tradition. He tells his depraved brothers that he will find love in a more gentle manner.

He declares that his future wife will be determined by the picking of a flower from a plant that he has long nurtured.

The brothers scoff at their tender sibling, yet go along with his seemingly ridiculous scheme.

The resulting consequences give birth to the beginnings of the great Lardo Empire’s downfall. Love and passion, soon turn to incest and murder.

And self-preservation soon takes precedence to family loyalty.

The cast were outstanding, showing their dramatic versatility and prowess at every opportunity.

And while most members played more than one part, everyone was fabulous!

Of particular note, however, were tho characterisations of Lardo and Girl.

Liz Hague played the tyrannical father figure brilliantly. With laughs as countless as the variations of Largo’s facial hair, Hague had the audience in stitches.

Wgike capturing the hearts of many an audience member, Dawn Fleming was impeccable as the vulnerable little sister.

The use of props was also extremely well done.

The four ladders and a couple of brooms were an imaginative asset to the players and were, at times, incredibly symbolic.

The simplistic use of musical instruments was also ingenious, and a credit to all involved!

The show has been described as 'not to be missed' and 'if seen will never be forgotten'.

I would say it is all of that and more.

Simultaneously thought-provoking and charming, it is a tale that should be told for many years to come!

Four Ladders, Seven Brothers and a Couple of Brooms. Devised by Rough Cut Theatre company and Directed by Iain Tidbury. Starring Craig Blake, Hannah Bruce, Dawn Fleming, Liz Hague, Rebecca Hyland, Shira Klasmer, Kate Mooney, and Annette Walker. 6th July to 26th July 2004 at the Oh!Art centre at Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green, London E2. Box Office 020 7739 9001.

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