Geranium Theatre Company’s debut play Princess premieres at The Etcetera Theatre.

Review by Carmel Shortall

Princess opens to a background of flickering images projected onto a screen, accompanied by eerie music.  

Lily has not left her house for 16 years since being abandoned on her wedding day. She is attended by the slightly sinister Reverend Sibyl and, as the house decays around them, they are joined by Rose, Lily’s new nurse.

As Lily’s story is gradually revealed during the course of the play and details of Rose’s background emerge, the links and similarities between the two women start to overshadow the differences. Rose has recently split from a cheating boyfriend. She became a nurse because her mother committed suicide after being abandoned. She begins to share Lily’s “strange dreams” brought to life on the flickering screen – she feels as if the house had a life of its own.

Lisa Miller, Gema Segura and Ylva Fred’s tremendously atmospheric video and sound work lends the play a nightmarish quality, enabling the audience to inhabit the declining mental states of the characters. Butterfly wings flutter, distorted church bells ring out and words in Latin and Greek denote stages in the liturgy of the Mass such as the Agnus Dei (lamb of god) with its connotations of sacrament and sacrifice. Rose’s fate is sealed as soon as she enters the house.  

Playwright Melody Parker also plays Lily and convincingly conveys her shifts between passivity and anger while Emma Pring as Rose manages to suggest an inner vulnerability masked by her boisterous exterior. Disa Stefans as Reverend Sibyl manages to appear sinister and untrustworthy even while guzzling cake.

Director Melina Theocharidou pulls the whole together with tremendous skill and it is hard to believe that Geranium Theatre Company was formed only six months ago. Princess is their debut play.

The fictional story of Miss Havisham is well known but less so is that of Eliza Emily Donnithorne (1827-1886), an Australian woman who, on being abandoned on her wedding day, ordered that the wedding feast be untouched, the shutters nailed shut and remained in her house for the rest of her life. It is to her true story that the play, Princess, is dedicated.

Princess has now finished its short two-day run at the Camden Fringe but Geranium Theatre Company are taking it to the STOFF Festival in Stockholm from 21st to 28th August.

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