With an impressive cast lead by West End star Charlie Stemp and ex-EastEnder John Partridge, you’d expect Rough Crossing to be a smooth experience.
Unfortunately, this desperately unfunny play by Tom Stoppard can’t be saved from sinking, even with a cast of core talent. Partridge flounders in his role as Turai, a playwright trying to find a suitable ending for his play. I’ve seen Partridge play big musical roles before and this show masks his talents aside from a lovely short dance segment at the end – which unfortunately comes far too late to save the show.
Charlie Stemp’s talent tries to shine through also, but is dampened by the lack of material he has to play with. He’s clearly got a knack for cheeky, likeable, charismatic roles and his performance as Dvornichek is entertaining, but lacking any character journey. He downs Cognac after Cognac and still remains as swaying and silly as he did in the very first scene, which seems to be a comedic opportunity missed. However, this has to be down to poor direction from Rachel Kavanaugh.
The cast have little chemistry and the sad piano accompaniment leads to lack of atmosphere obviously found with bigger orchestras. The play barely makes a splash and, though pleasant enough to watch, it doesn’t have enough plot or humour to make this worthwhile. To me, Rough Crossing is the equivalent of a dreary boat trip to Morecambe, rather than a luxurious cruise.. It’ll pass the time if you’re really desperate but there’s not much more to recommend it.
The set is impressive, a nicely designed portrayal of a ship, and the foundations of talent is apparent but, ultimately, this just isn’t enough to keep the play afloat.
Catch the show at Leeds Grand Theatre until 6th April.