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