Review: 2** Broken Strings @TabardTheatreUK

A stone’s throw from Turnham Green tube is the charming Tabard pub, with William Morris inspired interior and a cozy fairy-lit garden, providing a lovely spot for a gin and tonic, and to see two seasoned performers offer an emotionally charged evening – hopes were high! The intimate studio theatre perched above the pub seats just 75, the audience is greeted with an impressive set, a near exact replica of a domestic interior, expertly designed by Michael Leopold.

Best known for playing Ashley Peacock for 15 years on Coronation Street Steven Arnold stars in this two hander alongside another veteran of the cobbles Linda Clark as his cantankerous Mother-in-Law Rose. The action starts with Rose and David returning from Susan’s funeral. We learn that Susan’s mother Rose, has been moved into her daughter’s marital home that she shares with her husband David. It is clear from the outset that this relationship between the widowed husband and his grieving Mother-in-Law is fraught with tension, disappointment and bitterness.
Linda Clarke bought a weight and skill to her performance as the irritable and irritating Rose with incredibly convincing physicality of a much older woman and a commitment to the character. Steven Arnold also works hard to find emotionally integrity with a character struggling with grief and constant sniping from Rose.
The story follows the two unlikely housemates as the character’s tackle grief and the struggles of day to day life after loss. The story disappointingly supplies few surprises and no real take away message.
Both actors worked very hard with the weighty issue of grief. The script however was working against them with clunky exposition, very little subtext and an over use of ‘I remember when…’ monologues from Rose. The evening felt like a lost opportunity to explore an interesting subject with experienced actors. I would have loved to have seen both characters really broken open by the trauma providing some much needed light and shade but it was instead an evening of cliché and predictability. A bizarre reliance on a stage hand to move props and scenery helped add to the feeling of the action being forced – this felt dated, why couldn’t the actors move their own props?
There were at times some lovely moments of comedy and intimacy between the performers that managed to carry the show with the great chemistry they had clearly worked on.
Overall this was an interesting premise handled with broad strokes, making the actors work very hard with little reward.

Reviewer: Katie Mcleod
Written & Directed By: Joe Wenborne
Produced by: Emma Dyos for JW3

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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