rough passage

Rough Crossing

Malvern Theatres


From the moment you enter the theatre to see Tom Stoppard’s play you are immediately struck by a brilliant set design.

The impression of the front of a cruise liner is beautifully created with its railings and life rings. In Act One we are given the impression of looking at the liner from the outside; in Act Two we are looking from inside one of the interior halls towards the deck outside, at least at the lower level -visually this is a delightful show.

Rough Crossing is an usual piece, depicting the story of two European playwrights, Turbo and Gal, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to present a light and comical musical in New York.

However, the play has not been completed; the ending at least remains to be written during the sea voyage. They are accompanied by the musical composer Adam Adam, whose love for the leading actress Natasha they are trying to preserve, despite the intervention of the other principal actor, Ivor Fish.

The play is a free adaptation of another play by an Hungarian writer, Molnar, called Play at the Castle; the play is set on the ship SS Italian Castle. Adam Adam was once an actor but he retired from the stage when he contracted a strange speech impediment as a result of seeing his mother return from prison. It seems the mother made a habit of going to prison and returning.

Adam however is distressed to hear Ivor declaring his love for Natasha and their romantic protestations become a part of the adapted play which is being rehearsed during the crossing and shape the newly devised ending.

There is something extraordinarily contrived about the plot which is at times difficult to follow despite the attempts of the cabin boy Dvornichek to explain it very rapidly at certain moments. The contrived and rather unsatisfactory story nonetheless provides Stoppard with an opportunity to reveal his typical verbal dexterity and wit, though it is puzzling that he opted to adapt this particular piece.

Although the story and the play are confusing and disappointing, the cast and their director make the most of the material.

Rachel Kavanaugh has introduced tap-dancing, song and dance and some lovely elements of physical theatre to keep the entertainment alive. The swaying of the cast as they struggle to keep on their feet in the midst of the Atlantic storm is excellent.

Charlie Stemp as Dvornichek is skilful and very clever: he provides plenty of slap-stick humour, repeatedly downing innumerable drinks ordered by various passengers. The talented cast is led by John Partridge whose skills in singing and dancing are well established. Matthew Cottle plays Gal with slick efficiency.  The sound effects and lighting are very effectively used to enhance the atmosphere. The evening is entertaining despite the weaknesses of the play itself – though clever verbal witticisms abound, this is not Stoppard at his best! The play runs at The Malvern Theatres till 09-03-19

Tim Crow


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