Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Rose creates a fine bouquet

Rose & The Seven




IT will be a great pity of this latest piece from Innov8 dies after just one performance.

That is all the community-based, all-girl group from Hodge Hill could afford to stage, and stage it they did before an appreciative full house in the Hexagon theatre at the MAC.

The play, written by the group's leading light, Meanie Clarke, is about Rose and seven students thrown together sharing accommodation at university – friends of convenience.

Slowly through a series of episodes we find out about each character, their very different home lives and backgrounds, and see their relationships developing within the group.

The last Innov8 production was about racial tension, this is about relationships and family.

The young cast of 12 are all believable, some are exceptional but the play produced its own star in  Trevelle Robinson as Cassie. She gives a superb performance, painting a harrowing picture of madness, of psychosis, a troubled life including 11 years in a home waiting for her mother to come and visit, a mother, played movingly by Sara Rahim, who is trapped in hospital in her own world of madness.

Trevelle Robinson who produced a remarkable portrayal of the pain of mental illness

Cassie's Ipod running out of power has her on the edge of meltdown – the constant music helps drown out the voices. She rings her hands, nervously moves constantly and even her feet seem to want to hide from the world. You are left watching the raw hurt and pain of mental illness.

We see Rose, played with a quiet authority by Aneesa Rehman, coping with a possessive mother who cannot understand why her daughter would leave home and their cosy, stifling relationship to go to Uni. Despite carrying the burden of maternal obsession from home, or perhaps because of it, she takes Cassie under her wing.

There is Doc (Najma Jokhia)  who is 13 and already at Uni, a child prodigy, or perhaps a freak, who could probably tell you the capital of every nation on earth yet knows nothing about friends or relationships. She has had a short life of pushy parents.

Full marks too to Cyrene Blake, Charlene in the last production, World's Apart, who turns up here as Michel, a bolshy, arrogant, streetwise, life-stupid, teenage BOY.

To be fair, until checking at the interval, I thought it might just have been a boy with only the lumpy T-shirt giving me doubts.

Michel is the wild one of his family with “eyes that have seen too much but not enough to see what is happening.” His wayward  life sees his brother Nathan shot in the cycle of violence embraced by gang culture with a totally different  performance form Trevelle Robinson who doubles up as his grieving mother. A moving moment as the first half fades into darkness to Enya's  haunting If I could be where you are.

Cyrene Blake who is thoroughly convincing as that frightening figure  - the hormone-fuelled, arrogant, anger-filled  teenage boy

For Michel to tell his story is a breakthrough, a baring of his young soul as a closeness forms between him and the permanently happy Summer (Anmbrin Amjid)

Aanisah Sherbaz is another young actress who has undergone a script sex change, playing the effeminate Charlie, perhaps an easier role for a young woman that the angry, aggressive Michel. Charlie is a gentle sort of lad with the hots for Rose – so he is not that effeminate.

Alex  is the poor little rich girls student. Designer clothes, awash with cash from a mother, Sally Timms, (Leanne in Worlds Apart) who sees materialism as a more than acceptable substitute for love.

Pulling them together initially is the remarkably confident Zahra, Emmon Kiyani, a dreamer and idealist who wants everyone to indulge in a session of active silence, meditation and thought. They agree if only to shut her up, which starts off the thinking and the reliving of eight very different worlds with a common destination.

The play manages to avoid clichés and shows Melanie Clarke has a rare talent. It is funny, moving, well observed and has a story worth telling which in turn is well told.

Rose & The Seven is not perfect, but this was a first performance. Give it a few workshops and a few tweaks and it is good enough to become a youth theatre standard.  Watch out for their next one, this is a new group with talent from writing through to performance. 12-11-11.

Roger Clarke

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