Review: Fear of Roses (Assembly Roxy)
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
There’s something appealing and filling about a crime-comedy; full of power, murder, betrayal, and wit. In some of the classic neo-noirs and comedies these virtues are overshadowed by casual sexism, but in Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller’s Fear of Roses, the twisted power unfurl with an all-female cast. We meet selfish, self-obsessed bank manager Tabby (Amy Gilbrook) and her overworked assistant Nicolette (Amelia Chinnock-Schumann). When Tabby is blackmailed into robbing her own bank by a mysterious stranger called Keely (Daniella Cunliffe), crime and chaos ensue.
The intention for Brimmer-Beller’s script is to be tightly paced, witty, and cut-throat. And, sure enough, Fear of Roses does have a generous handful of witty lines. But it suffers from its heavy and conspicuous exposition. It may be that a plot that requires this much backstory just isn’t suited to a one-hour Fringe format. There’s Nicolette’s overly detailed phone call, Tabby new business cards to tell the audience about her upcoming promotion, and the repetition of the fact that Tabby and Nicolette have known each over for over six years.
Photo Credit: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller
The blame does not solely lie at the feet of the writing though – if the actors had more chemistry the audience needn’t be reminded so frequently. Gilbrook has her moments, but she seems nervous in the role, as though fearful that if she fumbles a line the whole character will shatter before our eyes. Chinnock-Schumann is stronger in some parts than others, coming into her own in the last scene. But alas she struggles to project; at times she has to compete to be heard with the sound of a cooing pigeon from outside the venue. Her performance leaves very little impression, and she is not able to sell how put-upon her character is meant to be. Cunliffe, despite her limited time on stage, is easily the flattest of them all. At no point during the performance does the character of Keely make an appearance on stage, only Cunliffe in a long coat.
The combination of the heavy exposition and clunky performances makes Fear of Roses something you would not expect from a play with so many twists and turns; boring. The comedic potential of the script may have been able to save it, but it is spoiled by the bland performances. It's not a crime, but it is a tragedy. Two stars.
Whispers from the Crowd:
I liked it. I liked there were three diverse women, that was very gratifying, especially since it was sort of farcical which is usually associated with men.