Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Room review at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London – ‘thrilling, emotive and inventive’

Harrison Wilding and Witney White in Room at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Photo: Scott Rylander Harrison Wilding and Witney White in Room at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Photo: Scott Rylander
by -

When Emma Donoghue was writing the novel Room, she was already considering how it might be adapted for the stage.

While the 2015 movie version embraced realism, her stage version celebrates the  original’s inherent theatricality.

Room is inspired by the Fritzl case. Young Jack has been born into captivity, his Ma having been kidnapped seven years earlier. They’ve spent those years locked in a self-contained shed, where she is raped on a regular basis.

As in the novel, this production makes Jack’s inner monologue the prime narrative but in a coup de theatre, Little Jack is shadowed by Big Jack who provides that narrative voice.

It’s a deeply satisfying device that helps drive the drama while remaining true to the spirit of the source work. Cora Bissett’s consummate direction steers the story towards a powerful first act finale. The stunning visual design combines Lily Arnold’s hypnotic set with Andrzej Goulding’s inspired digital projections to further animate Jack’s world.

Little Jack, here played intuitively by Harrison Wilding is mirrored by the energetic Fela Lufadeju, who effortlessly captures the  innocence of childhood. It is however Witney White as Ma who gives the show its edge, as she is forced to mask the unspeakable horrors of their existence from her son.

Ma’s inner monologue is expressed in song and Bissett and Kathryn Joseph’s musical numbers add a further dimension to Donoghue’s gripping story.

If there is a problem, then perhaps the second half fails to match the dramatic intensity of the first, but this is a moot point in the wake of so rich a theatrical piece.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Thrilling, emotive and theatrically inventive adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel