Where– Arcola Theatre, Dalston Junction
When– November 20 – December 21
Written by– Jeremy Green
Directed by– Lotte Wakeham
Starring– Tom Batemam, Daniel Crossley, Simon Darwen, James Northcote, Emma West, Jayne Wisener
Being already slightly obsessed with Victorian culture and namely women dealing with Victorian society I was perhaps predisposed to like this piece of theatre. Having said this, I went in with a neutral mind with no large expectations. This was the best way to approach it, as I was completely blown away.
Many of the audience for the opening night may well have known the sad tale of Lizzie Siddal (Emma West), but despite knowing the end of her life, and despite the play starting with the digging up of Lizzie’s grave to recover Rossetti’s poems, it’s still a gripping story from start to end.
This is honestly some of the best acting I’ve seen in a long time. The moment where Rossetti (Tom Bateman) first lays eyes on Lizzie is genuinely electric. The chemistry is not at all forced, and the lines seemed to flow effortlessly from each and every actor, completely encompassed in their characters. Especially being open night, the performances were absolutely spotless.
Of special mention, is Daniel Crossley, whose main character was famed art critic John Ruskin, but hopped between playing Rossetti’s agent and Siddal’s advisor at art college; each character as believable as the next, this was a real talent. Emma West came into her own in the second act where Lizzie is addicted to laudanum and tormented by the loss of a child, both a common addiction and occurrence in the Victorian period, though no less difficult to handle.
Well into the first act, I felt like I was watching a recording, it was so genuinely faultless and fascinating and Tom Bateman developed a genius character for Rossetti. It was no surprise when people gave standing ovations at the end of the play, and it was a really nice touch that they asked Lucinda Hawksley to write a piece for the programme, author of Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre- Raphaelite Supermodel, arguably the definitive book on Siddal’s life.
The staging was simple and effective and the timing of the lighting, music and prop movement was all down to an absolute tee. If anything did go wrong, it was impossible to spot, and it was incredibly interesting to see Siddal’s life resurrected on stage.
Definitely one to book now, and head down to the Arcola Theatre– compelling and fascinating, quite simply a brilliant play about a tragically enthralling life with outstanding actors.