‘Fear of Roses’ (Black Bat Productions) | Review By Keiran McLean

After the last 15 months of theatre being missed, I was delighted to be back at The Edinburgh Fringe this year to review Black Bat Productions ‘Fear of Roses’. The company returned to the fringe after triumphant reviews of their previous show Chagos 1971 which received brilliant reviews at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This year at the fringe they are producing not one, but two brilliant shows, ‘A Fear of Roses’ showing at Assembly Roxy and ‘Press’ at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar.  

This fast-paced, darkly comedic crime story written and directed by Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller follows three women, four eventful days and a nefarious plot straight out of the mid-century pulp. When ruthlessly ambitious bank manager Tabby is blackmailed by the mysterious Keely into robbing her own bank, Tabby incorporates her put-upon assistant Nicolette into the scheme… Of course, nothing goes quite as planned. Returning with their fourth original Fringe show after a sell-out run of Chagos 1971, Black Bat Productions presents this thorny neo-noir as a thrilling bit of pulp and a searing depiction of twisted modern hierarchies. 

Tabby played by Amy Gilbrook, was a lively character who fueled the story with their and arrogance. Gilbrook entered the performance with a high caliber of energy and never failed to withstand it throughout the show. Her energy was complimented by her chemistry with the fellow performers on stage. Chemistry is a vital part of a production with a smaller cast so this was shown and utilized nicely with Fear of Roses.  

Nicolette played by Dominika Ucar, was the driving force of the play. The character’s timid and nervous quirks were very relatable and investing for the audience watching. Ucar played this character amazingly and held her own onstage, grabbing the audience’s attention with her personal story. The character arc for Nicolette was a very smooth yet unpredictable which was really good and the character development was shown nicely by Ucar throughout the piece. She showed a high level of understanding of her character and she utilized her skills to portray Nicolette seamlessly.  

Keely played by Sophie Boyle, was a hard hitting, energetic character there to stir up the plot. Boyle came on stage and matched the energy of both fellow actors and instantly made the audience take notice of the character. Boyle’s energy was amazing, however, this may have impacted the pace of the dialogue and some of the suspenseful moments in the script, to build tension, may have gotten lost for the viewer. This may have only been a pacing issue but the intense moments became normalized.  

Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller penned and directed this production. Nathaniel has a fantastic and realistic style of writing. The writing lifts itself off of the page and allowed for a fast paced and engaging dialogue. The writing had a fantastic plot which presented many twists and turns which as an audience member were not predictable which made the play as a whole very enjoyable. The directing in this piece appeared to be minimalistic, the dialogue really drove this story & informed the movement of the show. In particular I enjoyed many of the intentional placements of characters to allow for comedic moments during the more tense moments in the play.  

As the set is also minimalist, I feel like as an audience member this play would thrive in a more intimate setting in which we feel we are in an office with Tabby and Nicolette. To compliment this either theatre in the round or a smaller and more intimate venue would be perfect to feel closer to the action and heighten the more tense moments on stage.  

In conclusion, ‘Fear of Roses’ was a great play performed by 3 very talented performers. The writing allowed for each character to be completely diverse and showcase varied character developments as well as some hilarious comedic moments that had the audience in stitches. The pacing of the dialogue and tension building towards the story’s key plot twists did affect the impact that the company would have been hoping for, however, the returning Black Bat Productions proved that they are a company who know how to hit the mark with original plays.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Tickets are available below-  

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/fear-of-roses

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