Fear of Roses – Assembly Roxy

Written & Directed by Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Girl Boss’ gets thrown around quite a bit these days, doesn’t it? This concept – that to be in command (and remain in charge), one needs to channel an assertive power stance, rather than its origins as a woman forging a path of entrepreneurship and women’s rights in a male-dominated world. 

Tabby symbolises everything toxic about the modern hierarchal structure and myth of corporate female empowerment; to stow oneself aggressively – a tactic noticeable across the financial and business world. A promotion, ill-gotten, is used to blackmail her into stealing money from the bank. But in her new position, she can make someone else do the dirty work for her, right?

Underneath the weeds, there’s a classical tribute to neo-noir pulp crime, dragged into the contemporary corporate world of financial power-play. With tainted friendships, someone is always left behind – stepped on as the others make their way to the top. But old wounds fester, and quick underhanded decisions come back to haunt Tabby as she takes to her new senior position with a touch more panache than friend and assistant Nicolette would appreciate.

Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller’s script takes the neo-noir thriller and attempts to incorporate additional elements but his direction becomes over-burdened and finicky. Fear of Roses‘ ideas of producing a thorny, lacerating piece of commentary on power-play and manipulation wavers as the convoluted plotholes begin to highlight issues. The stance to feature a cast of women crawling over one another, dragging one another down, to better their chance at promotion serves well in the present climate. But the present issue doesn’t lie with the scripting, but rather stilted performances and lacking direction. 

Measured, the introduction may at first seem to place Nicolette as submissive, happy to appease and listen, but Dominika Ucar controls herself as a resoundingly investible and quick-witted character, not the doormat Libby intends her to be. In the stand-out role, Ucar delivers conviction in lines, offering a dimension to Nicolette the other characters fail to receive.

Ucar pairs with Tabby well enough and their chemistry compresses a background between the two characters if a touch heavy-handed on Amy Gilbrook’s part. The contention and poison this promotion encourages are visible in Ucar’s facial mannerisms in small ways, rallying the audience behind her. And though a partial antagonist, Gilbrook keeps a level of sympathy for Tabby – though not enough to change your mind about Bank Managers.

Far-fetched, the narrative has genre-bending roots, but the pacing causes issues with a flowing story – often audiences will be deciphering what is going on, the scene will break-neck shift into a differing scenario or interaction. And despite its roots for crime thriller pulp, there was never a real genuine sense of threat or violence. Chiefly down to the excessive pacing and awkward line reads on the part of Keely.

There’s a touch of pruning to undertake before Fear of Roses blooms fully, but the intentions of a passionate writer and cast are present, ready to re-introduce the world to an often cast aside genre of thrilling commentary and over-the-top glorified violence and fun.

Fear of Roses runs until August 26th, and tickets are available for purchase here.

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