London Student Magazine
The review in full by Imogen Holroyde
The evening began with a trek across town. On the tube. During rush hour. On a Friday. Voluntarily. Utter madness. Add to that the England football game that I had dragged my date away from and this was going to have to be a pretty good play to restore my mood.
The Canal Café Theatre is a small, intimate venue and for writer Roz Wyllie it was packed. The audience are seated at tables; mine included friends and family of one of the actors, so I prepared to laugh politely at the relevant moments and settled down as the lights dimmed and the tabletop fairy lights glowed.
The basic plot is, well, basic. A husband and wife take their moody teenage daughter and her pretty friend on holiday. It doesn’t exactly sound earth shattering, but Wyllie handles it with skill and ease. The chemistry between the actors is such that their portrait of a relationship built up over twenty years of marriage is totally convincing. Indeed, if I have any complaints about the performance then it is that parts of it felt a bit too real to be comfortable.
Teenager Chloe (Amy Newton) spends the holiday grappling with her near obsession with her friend Bex (Lily Philips). Meanwhile Bex is more concerned with appearing to be an intellectual, never missing a chance to quote Proust. As mum Mandy ponders her lost youth, dad Bill (Drew McKenzie) just does his best to avoid getting involved.
One reason this is so effective is that it works on a number of levels, drawing on different experiences. As a student who has just returned from several family holidays, the parts that resonated most for me were the moments surrounding the holiday preparation. However older spectators clearly empathised more strongly with the depiction of a failed marriage. If that implies that the more poignant moments were lost on me, I’d like to think that they weren’t: you genuinely feel for Mandy and long for her and Bill to rekindle the love that their marriage once had.
Paper Fortunes is Rogue Writer’s first full length production at the Canal Café Theatre, and in Wyllie they have found the perfect writer for it. She and director Cameron Harris deftly make use of a small stage and the audience are drawn into the lives of the characters, in particular during moments in which they address the audience directly. If this is the shape of things to come at the Canal Café Theatre, then “Rogue Writers” should be very proud of themselves indeed.