Sub Rosa
Fire Exit
citizens theatre
Glasgow
2009

Written and directed by David Leddy

Assistant director Steff Smith

Sound design by Graham Sutherland

Performed by Cora Bissett, Angela Darcy, Louise Ludgate, David Magowan, Alison Peebles, Finlay Welsh.

 
Sub Rosa is the bastard theatrical child of Stephen King and Marie Lloyd. This gothic Victorian promenade show takes an audience of just fifteen people on an expedition through the secret, backstage spaces at the Citz. Theatre ghosts lead us through hidden rooms, into a derelict bar and beneath the stage. The tiny old rooms are lit with glittering pinpricks of light that intensify the darkness beyond. Eventually we reach the blood-red velvet seating of the disused upper circle in the empty, echoing auditorium.

Out of the shadows comes a motley crew of sopranos, hoofers, chorines and wig-masters. They tell a haunting, mournful and darkly comic tale of yet another chorus girl burning to death beneath the stage while the show carried on above her head. Can somebody put a stop to these incidents? Will there be a bloodthirsty coup or a red velvet revolution? The management are literally getting away with murder…

The piece is named after sub rosa, the legal terminology for secrecy (a sub rosa meeting, for example) which has its roots in Greek myth – Aphrodite’s rose was given to the god of silence to keep her sexual indiscretions secret. In the middle ages a rose suspended over a council meeting denoted secrecy. Roses are frequently carved on Christian confessionals and the term has recently come back into fashion in political circles, particularly in the Scottish Executive. Indeed all the characters are named after breeds of rose such as Ida McCracken, Svaty Vaclav and Charles Hunter.

Scene lighting in Sub Rosa is not literal from the text, but is more of a representation of how the characters themselves may want to be seen.  Vaclav has strongness, vividness, and a tendancy towards over-toned skin colour; Millie and Dillie Merkeley are colourful and dramatic; Angus McNeil is crisp, bright and precise; Mrs Thorn is drab but beyond caring, with a glint in the eye; Ida McKracken is sumptuous.  This is often in contrast to the words spoken.

Additional character/s are suggested in the lighting transitions set to music in the upper circle at the end of the show.  This brief epilogue invokes the building architecture, with shafts of light, spotlit statues and LED stars trapped behind grilles.  The scene ends with a slow fade to black on the faces of the statues.

Where there are visible light sources, they are either old theatre lamps (Strand Patt series), “practicals” such as desk lamps and angle poises, or tiny LED sources which are other-worldly.  The lighting design is an ode to incandescent, opening in the month when EU directives called for the phasing out of incandescent light sources, with special regard to the wonderful twentieth century Strand Pattern series lanterns.  http://www.strandarchive.co.uk/index.shtml