pennyroyal review

Review: Pennyroyal, Finborough Theatre

Review: Pennyroyal, Finborough Theatre

“Like the herb in the title of this play, family love can soothe and heal a troubled spirit – or it can be toxic.” Jenny Booth reviews.


Like the herb in the title of this play, family love can soothe and heal a troubled spirit – or it can be toxic. Both experiences are true in this tale of two sisters. Frightened and desperate, Daphne (Madison Clare) is consoled by her big sister, Chris, after the devastating news that at 19 she is going through premature menopause. Chris gives up her studies and donates her eggs so that Daphne can attempt to conceive. But the audience’s sympathy for Daphne starts to run dry as she grows harder-edged and more selfish. Plunging into self-pity she first runs away from Chris’s devotion, then greedily takes advantage of it, until a rift opens between the two that seems hard to bridge.
The intricate shifts and twists in the sisterly relationship are conveyed with precision and intensity by the two actresses. It was a particularly magnetic performance from Lucy Roslyn as Chris. Her vocal mannerisms were completely naturalistic, and every glance and gesture was in character as she gave 100% focus to each second she was on stage. And no wonder she appeared to live and breathe it – Roslyn wrote the play, which is receiving its world premiere at the Finborough.
Admirable as it was to tackle a rarely-touched subject with honesty, and skilful as the dialogue was, the show did not I fear grip my attention all the way through. Scenes tended to be conducted at a similar pitch of intensity; and when the action was interspersed with commentary to explain the passage of time, the pace tended to sag. The set hovered uneasily between naturalistic and symbolic without entirely working on either level. There is much to admire here; but with director Josh Roche’s principled refusal to resort to melodrama, the show lacks a bit of oomph. Perhaps this episodic story would be more absorbing and could unfold at a more appropriate pace if it was told in novel form, rather than in the confines of a one-act play.

Finborough Theatre, until 6 August

Image: Lucy Roslyn and Madison Clare – credit: Helen Murray