Home Arts & Lit Review: Rotten Heroes

Review: Rotten Heroes


Mia de Villiers-Hill reviews Theatre With Teeth’s Rotten Heroes at the Tobacco House.

This week the Tobacco House on Exeter’s Quay were host to ‘Rotten Heroes’ by Theatre with Teeth. The play was centred around Leonard Cohen’s novel from 1966, ‘Beautiful Losers’, and captures the obscurity of his words.

Image credit: Theatre with Teeth
Image credit: Theatre with Teeth

The performance was simple in direction which worked very well to engage the audience and allowed a central focus on the dialogue. ‘Rotten Heroes’ pivots around four central characters, Catherine Tekakwitha (Samantha Theobald Roe), ‘I’ (Ben Gilbert), Edith, (Anya Williams) and ‘F’ (Jake Francis). The three-way love triangle between the nameless ‘I’, Edith and ‘F’ explores the meaning of love, sexuality and the key component: power.

As I walked up the stairs to find my seat I was slightly taken aback by finding myself stood in the middle of the stage which had spread across the width of Tobacco House. This surreal entrance with low-lighting worked very well to set the scene as it provoked an air of mystery and encouraged slightly nervous anticipation for the play to start. This mysterious atmosphere continues throughout the performance through the ambiguity of what is taking place on stage.

Sexuality is an ongoing vein throughout the play with sexual imagery from the outset. At the start of the production Catherine Tekakwitha, a mythic 17th century Mohawk virgin saint, stands on an elevated section of the stage making slow stroking movements all over her body which gradually quickens in pace therefore taking on sexual connotations and is also hypnotic in nature. The choreography of the entire play was very effective and successfully conveyed the sexualisation of love. It was also triumphant in conveying power, with ‘I’ stripping down to his underwear which showed the manipulative power ‘F’ and Edith held over him. He stood there in centre-stage looking helpless and vulnerable whilst the others remained clothed thus heightening their sense of power over ‘I’.

The characterisation of the all the characters was very effective and the acting excellent. A couple of minor slip-ups by ‘I’ were exceptionally well recovered and did not cause any glitches in the overall performance.

The performance succeeded in fulfilling what it set out to do and the themes of love, power and sexual desire are all conveyed very well. I think particular credit should go to the acting – it was outstanding and if I had not known it was a student production I would have thought it professional.


Mia de Villiers-Hill

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