When you hear the rousing tune of the State Anthem of the Russian Federation, you know you’ve stepped into a play about the Russian contribution to Germany’s defeat in the Second World War. However, rather than focus on the ground conflict, ‘White Rose’ tells the story of the female fighter pilots, including ‘Double Ace’ Lily Litvak. Written by Peter Arnott and originally premiering in Edinburgh with Ken Stott and Tilda Swinton, it’s a horribly clichéd play. With shallow meaningless dialogue, it throws around Soviet terms like water balloons and fails to capture the essence of mid-20th century Russia. Scenes cut across each other in perplexing and unnecessary ways. And – for a play about the bravery of female fighter pilots – ‘White Rose’ contains an awful lot of scenes where the women sit around bickering and talking about men.
The play is rescued however by Amy Liptrott’s direction. Simply set amongst grey blocks and chests, we are shown the stark austerity of the bunkers. Banners surrounding the stage are a constant reminder of the Communist Party, whilst also acting as screens for projections of video footage from the war. Charlotte Bloomsbury is generally convincing as Litvak, although the script has her as a sadistic, man hating, spoilt brat. Alice Pitt-Carter comes off best as engineer Ina Pasportnikova. Her frank delivery of lines makes her the most believable and likeable of the lot. However, David William Bryan very nearly sinks the whole thing as Alexei Salomaten (as well as the director of a film about the pilots and as a German with a terrible accent). His flamboyant performance as all three doesn’t match well with the gravitas of the plot and it’s painful to watch him trying to act drunk. Liptrott does well to hold the weak cast and script together and it manages to generally hold the audiences’ attention. It’ll be interesting to see what she can do with some better material.
Have a look at the rest of the shows in Mountview Postgraduate Director’s season here: www.mountview.org.uk/shows/shows/postgraduate-directors.html or have a look a the rest of our reviews.