Ross | Chichester Festival Theatre | Review
Ross, one of Terence Rattigan’s lesser known plays, has opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre, and should now get the exposure it deserves. The fascinating production follows the remarkable story of Lawrence of Arabia, and opens its audiences to hidden truths about this remarkable man.
From the instant I entered the Festival Theatre auditorium, the set instantly grabbed my attention, William Dudley has done a magnificent job as designer. The giant and beautifully engraved pillars in the backdrop, with a grubby surface on the floor, set the scene to reflect the Arabian desert and culture, whilst easily drawing back to the British Royal Air Force base, where we find the fakely named englishman Ross.
A new recruit with extreme intellect and oddities, it becomes clear there he has secrets and there is more to this man than meets the eye. The enigma is set in motion in the introduction, and just as it gets to the point of uttermost curiosity, the story is taken back to his previous life as Lawrence of Arabia, and everything that has brought him to this point.
Joseph Fiennes was a real hook for me when I looked at the casting, and he gave a flawless performance in a challenging and diverse role. He portrays Lawrence with power, intelligence and an odd introverted nature that fueled my hunger to discover more about this fascinating character. How he successfully led an army of 500 Arabian men to fight 2000 Egyptians, his close relationships with characters from opposite cultures, a much better relationship than with his British commanders. One I loved in particular was Sheik Auda Abu Tayi played by Peter Polycarpou, who is portrayed excellently with a sense of light humour that adds lovely light touches to this gripping drama in an expert way that only he can. Praise must also be given to Jay Saighal who plays the Turkish Captain with a real dark mixture of emotions that juxtaposed really well, he progresses from a rational thinker with a relaxed and dark humoured nature, to a man who reveals himself to take great pleasure in extreme torture, whilst remaining uncomfortably calm to great effect. The 18 man cast as a whole was very impressive.
I would highly recommend a trip to Chichester to see Ross, in typical Rattigan fashion it explores the complexity and depth of human emotion, the significance of his plays have been resurged in more recent years, due to them resonating on great matters we face in modern times. He wrote from his experiences in war and many of his plays contained small autobiographical moments that add an extra dimension to his work. Ross explores the 1916 Arab Revolt 100 years ago, which alongside the anniversary of the battle of the somme which was also a century ago, makes this a pivotal subject to explore. It was also very exciting to see Artistic Director Adrian Noble, formerly of the Royal Shakespeare Company, making his debut at Chichester Festival Theatre in this production.
I think in Sussex we are lucky to have a theatre that produces such high quality productions, CFT’s recent production An Enemy of the People was excellent and really set the bar for the season. Ross is a continuation of this exceptional standard whist being educational, insightful and inspiring.
Ross is showing at the Chichester Festival Theatre until 25 June, for more information visit www.cft.org.uk.
Reviewer : Stephen Sheldrake
???? Highly Recommended.