Blavatsky’s Tower is an aspirational first performance for Tightrope Productions, a production company recently started by Philippa Lawford and Kiya Evans of Regent’s Park College. A cast of five, a set of only a few chairs, and a limited stage space would be a challenge for even the best actors. But Tightrope Productions pulls it off.
What impresses the audience most is the strong portrayal of the bipolar son Roland (played by Marcus Knight-Adams). He aptly balances hilarious one liners with a powerful presentation of manic depression and isolation. The tone of the entire narrative is established by his early monologue, which creates a sequence of questions that aren’t answered until the very end. Similarly, John Livesey (The Doctor) brought what the audience thought was a sane voice, and his ability to counterpart Madeleine Pollard’s (Audrey) eccentric helicopter parenting had the audience constantly reassessing what they thought they knew.
What made the performance particularly powerful was the fantastic costume design and make up. Alex Rugman (Hector) successfully pulled off playing an old man armed only with excellent facial expressions and a face full of professional standard make up to give the appearance of ageing. But for me, the real star of the show was Louisa Iselin (Ingrid) who manages to play the least interesting of the characters in a way that makes the audience almost overlook her until it’s too late. Without going into plot details, Louisa plays the shy and quiet sister who is described as having “no real thoughts of her own”. Louisa is able to act the simple child whilst masking the fact that she is the most powerful of the cast. The ability of both the actress and the director to underplay a character that becomes the protagonist is highly commendable and certainly unexpected.
Blavatsky’s Tower certainly has my recommendation. It touches on dark issues often neglected by stage dramas, while keeping a distinctive humour present throughout.