fEAST Theatre

Formed in 2010, fEAST theatre continues to develop and showcase new work by professional theatre-makers from the East of England and beyond.

“bringing original and vibrant theatre to our region”

The Eastern Daily Press

Reviews of Rosa Mendoza


Review from the EDP by Stuart Anderson

Rosa Mendoza. Aylsham Town Hall 27th October 2021.
Review by George Norton
Poppyland Guest House, Cromer, website strapline ‘The charm of yesterday and the comfort of tomorrow’, a place where such innovations as granola and croissants are deemed ‘inappropriate’ and implacably resisted. It is run with joyless determination by Pam Dawson and her miserable cardigan-wearing husband, Keith. They’ve found themselves with a small staffing crisis, Pam having sacked the previous help and rejected a graduate Pole on account of his cold eyes.

And so it is that this ‘quintessentially English guest house’ (it’s definitely nota hotel) comes to employ Rosa Mendoza, a free-spirited Spice Girls fan, from Antequera in Southern Spain. Rosa is as charismatic, flirtatious and warm, as the Dawsons are dull, spiritless and unadventurous; and it is this contrast which comprises the chief motor for Rob John’s terrific new play for fEast Theatre which follows this ill-matched trio from the announcement of the EU referendum to the election of Boris Johnson at the end of 2019.

The political is very much a personal matter here. Pam is an enthusiastic Brexiter, eager to take back control; Rosa, who has enjoyed the benefits of the free movement of people, cannot understand why the British would want to self-sabotage by leaving the EU; and, while Keith’s whisky-fuelled late-night sessions playing air-piano to Bach suggest someone with a greater affinity for European culture, he’s too browbeaten by Pam to come out openly for remain.

 

As a means for dramatizing a political debate, one might think so far, so schematic, but the vote to leave precipitates a surprising reverse in the power relations between Rosa and her employers. With discreet echoes of films like The Servant and Parasite, a situation which seems initially uncomplicated turns out to be anything but: in the plays’ second half, the characters’ motivations become more ambiguous and harder to predict, and their relationships more complex. Possibly, some of these shifts strain psychological plausibility but, ultimately, this is the point the play is making. Human relationships, like political decisions, might seem straightforward at first glance but are, in fact, freighted with uncertainty, ambivalence, and difficulty.

Robin McLoughlin and Dawn Finnerty turn in skilful, detailed performances as the Dawsons, a couple with a marriage soured beyond repair, while Katie-Anna Whiting is radiant as the unforgettable Rosa. Her final text message back to the Poppyland is a dramatic masterstroke of pathos, hope and SOH.

Rosa Mendoza

fEAST theatre presents, as part of our tenth anniversary season a new play: Rosa Mendoza by Rob John.

In February 2016 on the very day plans for a Brexit referendum are announced Rosa Mendoza from Antequera in Southern Spain applies for a job as a chamber maid in the award-winning and quintessentially English Poppyland Guest House in the Norfolk seaside town of Cromer. Owners Keith and Pamela Dawson proudly promise their guests impeccable standards and a traditional old-school British holiday. The union jack flies in the front garden, cauliflower cheese remains a fixture on the early supper menu and croissants will be served at breakfast over Pam’s dead body. But in February 2016 Pam and Keith are struggling to recruit English staff and so Rosa Mendoza, a free spirit with a natural talent for breaking rules and crossing boundaries somehow lands the job and life at the Poppyland is about to change for ever. A law unto herself Rosa is charming and funny but also reckless and highly unpredictable. In Rosa Mendoza there is darkness and light in equal measure.

Set over four tumultuous years during whichnew fault lines begin to crack open the political landscape of the UK, Rob John’s new Norfolk play explores an explosive triangular relationship in a dark comedy for our times.

Touring October 2021