Pennyroyal at Finborough Theatre

Pennyroyal by Lucy Rosen is a new play which focuses on 2 sisters, Christine and Daphne. We discover early on that Daphne has Premature Ovarian Insufficiency and her sister donates eggs in the hope that Daphne can one day use them to become a mother. Except life is never that straightforward and the play follows these sisters on their journey on trying to become a mother and just how much this desire can effect all aspects of your life.

Pennyroyal is mostly told in very naturalistic language, predominantly in conversation between the sisters. These conversations are wonderfully naturalistic in how they are crafted and really enable the audience to buy into their relationship. They are peppered with in-jokes and antidote’s, remarks about family who we never meet and a sisterly bond is present throughout. There are moments however when the 4th wall is broken and the characters address the audience directly. I occasionally found that these moments jolted me out of what I had been watching and back to reality.

Through out most of the show the story developed at a nice pace, it was told with enough time to let the plot breath but equally never felt dragged out. The one exception to this was the ending of the show and the change of heart that was presented. There were no clues previously that this was coming and therefore this twist felt just too unexpected and rushed, especially compared to the rest of the play.

Pennyroyal depends on the audience buying into the sisters relationship and thanks to a combination of the mostly naturalistic writing style and the ability of Madison Clare who plays Daphne and Lucy Rosen who plays Christine, this is a relationship which I brought into straight away. There was a clear friendship and chemistry on stage between them and I was convinced that they had grown up together.

I did however struggle with what the piece was supposed to make me feel and what I was supposed to think about the Christine and Daphne. Neither of them came across as particularly likeable and therefore it was hard to emphasise for the characters the more we got to know them. The issue of domestic violence was also brought into the show but this seemed glossed over and muddied the waters when discussing infertility and the relationship between Christine and Daphne.

The set and the staging worked very well for this piece. The set was simply 2 chairs and numerous references to nature from the leafy mural across the walls to the flowering jars peppered across the stage. This meant that the audience were easily transported from one location to the next but never lost sight of the underlying themes of nature and growth. The lighting design helped draw the audiences attention to particular points where necessary, this combined with the intimate staging worked very well for this topic.

Pennyroyal is an intimate piece of theatre which throughout thrives when engaging and exploring the relationship between two women but potentially needs tweaking when it comes to the underlying emotion behind the piece.

Pennyroyal is on until the 6th August at Finborough Theatre. You can find out more and book tickets here.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Waitress, Cabaret and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World.

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