Compelling and absorbing, the latest offering from the Rose is a wide-ranging exploration of modern issues, referencing women created by a playwright a mere 2,500 years ago. Yet you need to know nothing about Euripides or the subjects of his ancient Greek writings to appreciate the mesmerising stagecraft of Niamh Cusack and Shannon Hayes as
Compelling and absorbing, the latest offering from the Rose is a wide-ranging exploration of modern issues, referencing women created by a playwright a mere 2,500 years ago.
Yet you need to know nothing about Euripides or the subjects of his ancient Greek writings to appreciate the mesmerising stagecraft of Niamh Cusack and Shannon Hayes as they act out role after role after role in Colin Teevan’s extraordinary drama Seven Pomegranate Seeds.
Directed by Melly Still, it runs in a continuous one-and-a-half-hour, interval-less stream in an auditorium made fuzzy and dreamlike by lengths of string suspended from the ceiling.
Finally, under the Kingston theatre’s new artistic director Christopher Haydon, we have a production that makes full use of the Rose’s multiple walkways that encircle the performing area on different levels, with catwalk gantries suspended in space, so the actors sometimes do their thing high above the stalls.
You don’t need to have a degree in classics (or even any particular skill in pronunciation) to work out that the issues faced by Persephone, Hypsipyle, Medea, Alcestis, Phaedra, Creusa and Demeter are timeless and resonate to this day.
A special call-out to Malcolm Rippeth and Jon Nicholls, whose lighting and sound respectively are simply magnificent.
Less successful, however, are the attempts to announce each new segment as it begins. With seven classical figures to introduce in turn, some are done via projections, some by holding a mirror up, and some by writing a name in dust on the stage. It means that many, particularly in the posh seats, are in the dark about who’s next.
Does this matter? Probably not. Without a break, the seven different stories merge into a continuous tale of anguish, triumph, female bonding, rape and the overcoming of male power dominance.
James Bond and Donald Trump are cited and explored as examples. Shannon Hayes and Niamh Cusack work in wonderful harmony, racing round the stage or coming together in hugs as they speak in near-poetry to paint pictures of women’s lives, linked to characters of the past. If there is a common theme, it’s motherhood.
Writer Teevan researched and created this work 15 years ago, but until now it has been restricted to academic readings and radio versions. This is the first full-blown stage interpretation.
The Seven Pomegranate Seeds runs at Rose Theatre until November 20. www.rosetheatre.org