Transcend Theatre’s How to Kill a Rose, written by Felix Mufti-Wright and directed by Ailis Lord, is an exploration of domestic abuse within the transgender community. Terrifying realistic and heartrendingly hopeful, this bittersweet drama raises awareness of a vital issue affecting far too many people, while making you laugh with some clever humour. The performance is presented with subtitles and BSL interpretation throughout.
The set shows a simple home, with a sofa and tables, and hints towards the creativity of the characters with the presence of a keyboard and easel with paints. The characters are sixteen year old “Me” (Felix Mufti-Wright) and 23 year old “Him” (Tony Fox). At the outset of the piece their relationship seems to be sweet and tender as they mime domestic bliss, watching TV together and smoking weed as they cuddle and chat.
The age difference between the two characters is apparent from the outset and Mufti-Wright’s performance highlights his character’s immaturity and need for attention. This is emphasised with references to “Me” going to school and wearing his school uniform. When “Him” presents “Me” with a single red rose of Valentine’s Day, “Me” is very happy and mesmerised by the rose which he wants to keep forever. This highlights his youth and naivete as he is still at the stage in life where preserving something as is for eternity is preferable to development and growth.
Uncomfortable hints of “Him’s” true nature begin when “Me” wants to see friends but is persuaded instead to spend more time with “Him”. The possessiveness slowly increases, and it is easy to see how “Me” goes along with the behaviour as it gradually becomes more and more inappropriate and intense. “Him’s” heavy use of drugs and monotonous life creates conflict with “Me” and makes “Him” more inclined to keep “Me” all to himself and control his behaviour.
At times, the performances are a little flat, and with further development this could be a stronger and more emotional piece. However, this does also create a sense of the feeling of life going on without your real participation that can occur when living in this kind of situation. The passing of time is shown by flicking through a calendar quickly at regular intervals, which creates a sense of passive living and ending up somewhere without knowing how you got there.
The piece features spoken word poetry and song which brings depth and emotion to the story. The poems are performed by Mufti-Wright in coloured lighting which creates a dreamy feeling and the impression that these are personal thoughts which may be written in a journal or considered during meditation.
“Him’s” vicious criticisms of “Me” and everything that he enjoys and cherishes move from seemingly innocent banter to violent bullying and Fox’s portrayal is controlled in such a way that it is easy to believe the behaviour being shown. Mufti-Wright increasingly becomes nonchalant and depressed and his pushback against this behaviour shows an inner strength within his character.
The piece has an inner core of hope and the ending is uplifting while maintaining a feeling of awareness and understanding for the situation. This is an enlightening piece of theatre which uses a variety of performance techniques to create an original and intriguing look at an unfortunately common experience.
How to Kill a Rose is available to watch online 12th – 14th November 2021. Tickets are available here https://www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk/whats-on/how-to-kill-a-rose-online/
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 23rd October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★