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The Broadway Studio Theatre: The White Witch of Rose Hall

| Hidden London, Theatre | 15/10/2013

White Witch
Tom McCarron, with Gemma Rook as the White Witch.

The depiction of subjugation (let alone torture) is hard to take however it’s done. In live theatre it really hits home. Particularly as in this instance racially motivated, white against black. Or for anyone who finds the controlling traits of religion and superstition distasteful. This is not for the faint-hearted.

Plantation owner Annie Palmer’s horrendous mantra “It’s on my command whether my slaves live or die…” is gut-wrenching in its actuality. The arrival of a conscientious (and also young and handsome) English bookkeeper is bound to cause waves, and even the island girls’ banter is undercut with danger. The show benefits from Alicia McKenzie’s impressive dramatic range, subtly played-out as housemaid Millie. Just one of a superb cohort of black actors who earn the highest praise for skilfully reigniting an abhorrent prejudice. Simon James Collier made a brave and skilful move rewriting this legend to directly confront such abuses of power.

Michael Smith-Stewart as plantation slave Takoo.

Michael Smith-Stewart as plantation slave Takoo.

The witch’s sudden and extreme overreactions are terrifying indicators of a sadistic personality that must take its toll on an actor. But Gemma Rook is so good that you can see the fire in her eyes. Terrific to witness the man with the gravitas to confront her and Tom McCarron as Rutherford delivers – unknowing that it’s the worst thing to do.

A playful calypso contrasts with debauched voodoo spectacles where shadows climb the walls and death-rattles fall. Music by Renell Shaw is fittingly frenzied and frantic. Director Omar F Okai’s choreography is excellent, particularly in the fitful finale of drums and drama. Smoke lifts at the start and descends at the end. It veils the curtain-call but spellbound the myth melts into mist.

Now showing until October 26, 2013.

Well worth a visit for any theatre lover, the Broadway Studio boasts a pleasingly open stage, and amenable foyer seating. Just 15 minutes from London Bridge (Platform 1) to Catford Bridge in Zone 3. Check the evening train times, and enjoy the attractive Theatre Bar before returning to the station.

Production Website / Broadway Studio Theatre

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