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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

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.

Verdict
Thrilling, emotive and theatrically inventive adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel

Production

Production
Room
Venue
Theatre Royal Stratford East
City
London
Starts
May 2, 2017
Ends
June 3, 2017
Press night
May 10, 2017
Book
Emma Donoghue
Music
Cora Bissett, Kathryn Joseph
Lyrics
Cora Bissett, Kathryn Joseph
Director
Cora Bissett
Set
Lily Arnold
Lighting
David Plater
Sound
Alexandra Faye Braithwaite
Video
Andrzej Goulding
Production manager
Luke Childs
Cast includes
Witney White, Fela Lufadeju, Liam McKenna, Lucy Tregear, Stephen Casey, Harrison Wilding (alternating with Darmani Eboji and Taye Kassim Junaid-Evans)
Producer
Theatre Royal Stratford East, Abbey Theatre, Dublin, National Theatre of Scotland, Covent Garden Productions
Running time
2hrs 30mins