Two-Headed at The Rose Theatre – Review
Set amongst the backdrop of one of the most shocking tales of Mormon history, the Mountain Meadow Massacre in Utah in 1857, Julie Jensen’s play Two-Headed, tells the story of two best friends Lavinia and Hettie as they deal with the events in two very distinct ways.
Two-Headed currently at The Rose Theatre at London’s Bankside is the first contemporary play to be staged at the historic venue that was home to many of Shakespeare’s first productions. So it had big shoes to fill.
However, fill it it does. The enduring play brought to life by a supremely talented cast mixes history, sexual orientation, trauma and one hell of a confusing family tree. Noor Lawson (Lavinia) and Liz McMullen (Hettie) tell Jensen’s tale with a subtle geniality, poetic comedy timing and stages of light and dark that make you long for more than the 70 minutes allow.
The play sees five episodes that span over 40 years in the lives of two Utah-based female Mormons. Two best friends Lavinia and Hettie deal with story lines that would make even the Embarrassing Bodies cast blush!
The story starts as the two girls entering adolescence, are witnesses to the tragedy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, where in September 1857 over 120 emigrant travellers and their children from Arkansas were killed during a five day siege by the Nauvoo Legion, made up of disguised Mormon militia and its Native American allies.
Later stories focus on Lavinia’s love for Jane, a relationship that despite seemingly unrequited is cut short by her sudden death. The following caring for her love’s decomposing body sees a virtual tumour effect Lawson’s character throughout the rest of the play. Hettie’s polygamist marriage and children with her best friend’s father then sees the pair fight, make up and become besties all over again as Hettie’s daughter then runs off with Lavinia’s husband… and you thought Eastenders was full of incest.
The play’s quick moving journey through time sees Noor Lawson provide a top-notch display as the unbalanced and often indelicate, Lavinia.
It is all show and at every turn the play is vertiginously staged and the Amy Bonsall directed play is masterly in its delivery – it is a must see. If we did star ratings it would be five out of five!
Two-Headed is on now at The Rose Theatre, London until July 22nd. For tickets see www.rosetheatre.org.uk.