REVIEW: THE ROTTING HART @ KING'S HEAD THEATRE
🎭 The Rotting Hart
📍 King's Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1QN
🗓 Friday 21st April 2023
Last night I was invited by Crested Fools Theatre Company to review their production of The Rotting Hart at London's King's Head Theatre. The show is playing as part of the theatre's A Queer Interrogation Season which has been curated by guest artistic director Tom Ratcliffe.
Written by and starring Daniel Orejon, The Rotting Hart is a weird and wonderful foray into a dark world outside the realms of normality. The play is presented in an interesting way and is woven throughout the ages, looking back at anti-gay legislation in Spain and explores masculinity and sexuality in a unique way.
The protagonist has lived a life of isolation in rural Spain. Just him, his father and the animals they hunt for survival. Their lives play out in the shadow of the ruins of a sinister old monastery.
A stranger enters the characters life, so not only does he have to deal with social skills he's never needed, but something else is awoken in him. Desire and animalistic urges get the better of him and lines are blurred between reality and fantasy.
Described as a horror, I initially struggled to find why it had been categorised as such, but on reflection I think the horror stemmed from the character himself and the metamorphosis he goes through as he's telling the story. Rather than jumping out of your seat in fear, the play leaves you feeling slightly unsettled.
We see how the character is transformed into a beast because of hate, ignorance and internalised homophobia in a powerful message that transcends the ages.
There was a lot to like about this piece. I enjoyed that I was immersed into the story as soon as I entered the auditorium and I liked how this world was brought to life on the stage by Orejon alone. The single prop was just a plain wooden chair and this was cleverly used to portray a multitude of things throughout, including animals and the stranger Diego.
Technically I enjoyed the show too. Subdued lighting worked very well and the sound effects created just the right atmosphere. I liked how Orejon walked amongst the audience and spoke to them directly. The direction by Flavia D'Avila worked well, and she had obviously thought about the fact that there was seating on 3 sides of the stage and blocked the play accordingly.
The reason for 3 stars rather than 4 is that at times I struggled to follow the plot. Maybe this was because of the mixture of genre's, described as 'Brokeback Mountain meets The Fly', or maybe it was because when we heard dialogue from his father or Diego it was in Spanish. This meant that we saw the characters reaction to what was being said, but couldn't understand what had been said and I did find this a barrier.
This piece is definitely creative and I have not seen anything like this before. I feel as if I would like to return to the piece in the future as I feel a second viewing would help me to unravel the story and really get to the depths of the characters transformation.
The Rotting Hart only has one more performance at the King's Head Theatre on Sunday 23rd April. Head to https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/the-rotting-hart to secure your tickets.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being open, honest and free from influence.
My tickets for this performance were gifted by Crested Fools Theatre Company who invited me to review the production. The fact that my tickets were gifted played no part in my star rating for this review.