REVIEW: RoosevElvis, Royal Court ✭✭✭✭

RoosevElvis at the Royal Court Theatre

Royal Court
26 Oct 2015
4 Stars
Reviewed by James Garden
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It’s an odd premise to consider—a play about an abortive lesbian relationship as described through a buddy road trip between Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis, with a hint of Thelma and Louise. It makes the more cynical want to scream: “Yes, we get it, you’ve read Judith Butler. Gender is a performance.” However, The TEAM’s newest devised work, currently transferred from Brooklyn to Sloane Square, is an extremely charming, intimate evening at the theatre that can warm the hearts of even the most cynical.

Ann/Elvis are played extremely well by Libby King, and matched perfectly with Kristen Sieh as Brenda and the 26th President of the United States. They glide across the stage with ease, easily morphing between the roles with precision.

This is one those pieces where the devising process really works—and The TEAM certainly knows how to do it with panache. The direction, Film Elements, Scene, Costume, Sound, and Lighting Design all work together flawlessly to craft this work that seemed to fly by in minutes. Although, some of the jokes fell slightly flat on the British audience present, but, when showcasing such a piece of Americana, bits do get lost in translation.

RoosevElvis at the Royal Court Theatre

The only unfortunate problem with this piece seemed to be that there were moments when the audience could be taken out of the piece from the sheer sensory overload. In the opening moments of the first “present day” scene, Ann talks to herself, as Elvis, but the two characters elide together too much in King’s initial embodiment, creating a superfluous estrangement effect that, when read on the page, does not exist. It’s a small decision that makes much of the first 20 minutes of the piece rather confusing. Similarly, when “Elvis” Karate-chops pizza boxes, and Teddy bashes buffalo from the BBC’s Planet Earth across a giant green screen, one wonders if there was a lone voice in the TEAM that might’ve said “hang on a minute…”

However, once the audience is allowed to clue in on the central premise of the dual nature of the characters, the story falls into place extremely well. The story of a depressed South Dakotan Lesbian on a journey of self-discovery, guided by two icons of Americana bizarrely works, and is brutally honest, in the best and most-raw way possible.

Despite its visual confusion at the outset, this is an extremely watchable piece of theatre. It is a must see this Autumn.

RoosevElvis runs at the Royal Court until 14 November 2015. Book Now!

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