A tense, psychological thriller, Shaun McKenna’s new play Rocky Road is a two-hander set across a couple of flats where new tenant Kirsten Foster meets building manager Tyger Drew-Honey. There is a mystery we slowly become privy to – old wounds, ethical dilemmas.
Broadcast live from the tiny Jermyn Street Theatre, the set (by Ceci Calf) and staging is assembled in a very creative way; sometimes we see inside one living space, then another, sometimes both together. Projecting images on to blank canvas also worked very well to transform the homes we see, although both flats are depressingly minimalist, as if both characters are just passing through, unable to settle.
The lighting (by Ryan Joseph Stafford) and sound (by Dan Samson) combine to rack up the tension, yet the glimpse of the theatre’s seating at times gives a sense of artificiality. The crossing of the stage between rooms adds to this sense that we are silent, invisible observers in a potent power play. Conspirators, almost.
Time and place is set, and the characters defined by their setting (Gene Kelly songs, a plant, Alexa, a photo from the past). Colours define the spaces: warm, cool. These are our signals, our warning signs, our moments where we can hold our breath or take time to breathe.
The use of doors, locks, spy-holes, and walls gives a sense of claustrophobia, secrets, and solitude, which is well-developed throughout the piece. This Streatham space is a bolthole for both characters, but for very different reasons.
Director Steven Konis has developed a stylish take on what at first seems a simple tale with an inevitable end. Foster’s performance as has the most to play with with a strong backstory and a mission; but Drew-Honey’s Danny is nuanced yet intense. Their cat and mouse toying with each other is strongly evoked by Natasha Harrison’s movement direction, which allows both characters to be observed in their actions as well as their words.
Rocky Road is a mass of contradictions with a strong pinch of the “what would you do” dilemma: it does however have one major weakness in its ending, which I felt rang false to what had gone before.
That aside, this is an intelligent and ambitious piece of digital theatre which both unnerves and intrigues its audience, and it had me asking questions of what I was seeing throughout, trying to figure out who to trust and whether we really remain the same people all our lives.
This is a deeply unsettling piece of drama which strives to do something rather noirish with the theatre space and with the sense that revenge may not always be the best medicine. A fine, economical script will keep you guessing and the performers bring out the best and the worst of their characters, so it is not always clear where our sympathies should lie.
Rocky Road streamed on 30 April – 1 May, and returns from 10-30 May on stream.theatre: book your tickets here.
Image credit: Simon Annand
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Rocky Road.
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