A whole bunch of years ago (OK, maybe three) I went along to the Rose Theatre in Kingston, when it was still in its unfinished state to see Peter Hall’s As You Like It which was being staged in the raw auditorium, with its exposed concrete and pipes (and Portaloos, as I recall). And this was rather exciting, not so much for the production, which was decidedly Peter Hall-y. But for the space, which felt fresh and full of potential and, also, crucially, local to where I was living at the time, so no long, crawling train from the depths of Surrey to worry about.
Roll on 2008 and, having been dogged with delays, mainly funding related, the theatre is finally open. And the finished space is really quite something. It has a layout modelled on the original Rose Theatre in Southwark and seats around 900. It's most notable feature is a pit area in front of the stage where more limber audience members can come and sit on the floor for around £7 a ticket (the theatre's website recommends bringing your own cushion). It won’t please everyone - there have already been online grumbles about sightlines and whatnot – but I thought it was an attractive and elegant space. It just seems a shame that they’ve chosen to fill it, for this, its debut production, with a stiff, if dependable, production of Uncle Vanya, once again directed by Hall.
Solid. I think that’s the best way to describe it. Solid and sturdy. This is a production that delivers exactly what it was designed to deliver. But, presumably because it is intended to tour and has not been specially created for the Rose, it failed to use the great sweeping stage in an imaginative way. The acting was fine (particularly Loo Brealey's Sonya), the simple set, with its single autumnal tree, was attractive enough, and it did have its moments, its solid, sturdy, dependable moments, but it was too gentle to be truly moving and I just wish they could have christened this space with something a bit more, well, more.
Certain parties will, however, be cheered to know that the bar area is sizeable, spacious and very reasonably priced, if rather lacking in decent seating.
A case of watch this space.