By T.J. Davies
Rogue’z Theatre Company
Urdd Hall, Wales Millennium Centre
19th-22nd Feb, 7.30pm (2.30pm matinee 22nd)
1920s Hollywood, home of the silent movie industry, was full of glamour and opportunity for the young and beautiful. So why did silent movie siren, Louise Brooks chose to leave all that behind?
With her famous black bob and uninhibited sexuality Brooks caused a storm wherever she went. Her most famous work, Pandora’s Box, filmed in Germany under the watchful eye of director G.W. Pabst (played fantastically by Brian Smith) saw contemporaries criticising her naturalistic acting style. Now she is seen as one of the greatest actresses of her era, with influential film critic and archivist Henri Laglois saying ‘There is no Garbo! There is no Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks!’
Rehearsal shot - Karen Thomas as the mature Louise Brooks
Award-winning writer T.J. Davies explores the tumultuous life of the often overlooked Brooks in his ambitious new play The Winter Gift. Using direct quotations from Brooks’ autobiography and his own extensive research the play is a fantastically crafted tribute to the fascinating and outrageous actress. Showing Brooks in her best and worst lights the play charts her rise to European fame, fall to obscurity and eventual rediscovery. But was she happy to be redeemed or did anonymity suit her tempestuous nature?
Rogue’z Theatre Company have taken on this challenging text that jumps between Brook’s movie making career of the 20’s and her later life as a drunken recluse in the 50’s. Using multimedia, an intimate performing style and beautiful neo-noir design the young company are putting their own stamp on the piece. Rogue’z made their impressive debut last year with a very well received performance of cult classic One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and are sure to cement their reputation for passionate and intelligent productions with this project.
The intimate stage layout allows the actors to get in among the spectators, the larger than life characters literally spilling over the stage. Although dramatic and often confrontational the play is also touching, reminding us that although incredible it is a faithful representation of real life events.
|Rehearsal shot - Rhian Cheyne as Brooks during the 20s|
The compatibility of this cast, made up of a mix of professional and amateur actors, is incredible. Next week in performance they are sure to impress with their honest chemistry and timing. The perfectly orchestrated comedic scenes involving actors Fritz Kortner (Andrew Ford) and Alice Roberts (Louisa Marie Lorey) add a touch of farce to the proceedings but never step over into the territory of melodrama.
This love letter to Louise Brooks promises to be an intriguing and original production. Although exhibiting all of her weakness the show is still undoubtedly a fitting tribute to one of Hollywood’s forgotten stars.
Older Louise Brooks - Karen Thomas
James Card - Andreas Constantinou
Younger Louise Brooks - Rhian Cheyne
G. W. Pabst - Brian Smith
Fritz Kortner - Andrew Ford
B. P. Shulberg - James Pritchard
Alice Roberts - Louisa Marie Lorey
Marlene Dietrich - Nerys Rees
The performance will take place in the Urdd Hall, which can be accessed only by the side entrance to the Millennium Centre (to the right of the main doors). There is a matinee performance at 2.30 pm on Saturday 22nd Feb.
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