I love the paths that life takes you on, earlier this year I was completely blown away by Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott at Sherman Cymru, so when I saw on twitter that another of Owen’s play’s would be in London, I used one of my overnight’s to see Violence and Son at the Royal Court Theatre. Of course a fantastic play but I also loved that the chain of events has led me to a wonderful theatre, on Sloane Square.
On Thursday evening I was a little bit excited to be getting there again to see RoosevElvis, a complete unknown to me I have to admit the first appeal was of the icons implied in the title.
Brought to the Royal Court by The TEAM, a Brooklyn-based ensemble dedicated to making new work about the experience of living in America today, the play did open, as promised with the two iconic personas.
In Ann, performed by Libby King, Elvis is channelled. Ann is meat packer, with a shyness and unconfidence which disappears the moment she thinks like Elvis. Brenda, performed by Kristen Sieh, is a taxidermist from North Dakota, who is as challenging and attractive to Ann as it seems Roosevelt is to Elvis.
The first half of the play is filled with random humour, it just left me confuddled, in such a good way, in the eyes of King and Sieh there was such a spark, of wickedness, or enjoyment and of goodness. And in the characters there was the literal and figurative journey. The acknowledged weaknesses in Ann became exposed, and then carefully pieced back together.
Whilst there was a complete surreal quality, naturally as it would come to be that Ann’s imagination was the key to Elvis, and Elvis’s imagination which was the key to Roosevelt, and a complete randomness in the literal journey- from camping to the road to Graceland, so something becomes clear. That when faced with a lack of certainty about oneself, identifying with those, those icons, whose identity is so strong, so acknowledged, so can build yourself, to gain strength from others in finding happiness, through finding your self.
There is a sense of strange empowerment, as Ann reaches Graceland, that so much which has gone before is now set aside, and that a new sense of freedom has come to be.
Both actors were remarkable in their ability to engage, with performances full of physical energy they both succeed in conveying the polar opposite personas. Roosevelt is convincing in a steadfast quality slightly tipping towards insanity, and through King we see the butch side of Ann weighed with such uncertainty, and into the confidence of Elvis.
There were moments when my inability to keep up with the slightly barmy interchanges were tethering on the edge of enjoyment, but each time I was reeled back in, and I’m so glad, as the second half of the play unfolded so did the pieces come together. And in doing so, has left my mind doing overtime, long after I left the theatre.