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Psychology Squandered: She Wears Scented Rose

by on 25 April 2017

She Wears Scented Rose

Written and directed by Yasir Senna

Razorsharp Productions
Theatro Technis, London. 

SPOILER ALERT:  Beware: this review is full of spoilers. 

A man runs in.  He is bleeding from the stomach.  As he calls for an ambulance he collapses on the street.  Luckily, he survives.  As he heals from his ordeal, Mark (played by a charismatic Craig Karpel) tells his family and the detective on his case how he was stabbed by a young man in an attempted carjacking.  However, things are not as simple as they seem.

Scented Rose

I’ll just dive right into it. Yasir Senna has written a successful play in that the plot works well.  It follows the pattern and style of a movie thriller with some good twists and turns and enough red herrings to keep you guessing.  Looking back on it, I understand a lot of what Senna was trying to do.  Character behaviour I questioned at the time makes more sense now.  It’s like when you watch crime show for the second time, and you pick up on all the hints you missed the first time round.
The dialogue though could do with a trim.  One could easily get ten minutes off by tightening the exposition, the direction and the set changes.  Scenes drag due to repetitive dialogue and moments are milked for too long.  It kills of the tension.  The line between tense and funny is very fine and She Wears Scented Rose falters on that line a little too often.  The characters aren’t the deepest or most well rounded, but they get the job done.  Played to an L-shaped audience, the set designed by Wendy Parry is simple and effective.  She makes good use of key props and set pieces to create a variety of locations.  Lighting by Leo Bacica is pretty straightforward, but the scene between David and his daughter Sadie bathed in blue really stood out as a beautiful image.
But this brings me to my biggest issue of the evening. Maestro, some ranting music if you please.  (Again, huge spoiler alert)
The revelation of Sadie as the lover and stabber was excellent.  I had barely given her a second thought after her initial appearance.  My money was on the wife.  During the revelation scene, it becomes clear that Mark is in fact a manipulative and dangerous sexual predator.  The revelation of his true nature could have been such a great double twist: he might have been the one stabbed but he is actually the villain!  This might well have been what Senna was going for, but it is squandered.  How is it squandered you ask?  Sadie: she is the victim here, but for some reason she is portrayed as nothing more than the paper-thin trope of a deranged woman mad with jealousy ala in Fatal Attraction with a dash of Poison Ivy.  She begs, threatens, and rubs up against Mark wearing a school uniform and pigtails.  This is not Charlotte Campbell, who plays Sadie’s fault.  She does what she can and commits to what she has been given.
Sure, Sadie is (just) over the age of consent, but it is hard to believe that Mark has not been grooming Sadie for a long time (as the detective noted as well).  He is an older family friend- a figure of trust- and he wilfully and intentionally took advantage of a young girl.  The dialogue reveals as much.  And when Sadie finally threatens to tell, what does he do?  He pulls groomer trick no.101: ‘you really think your father will believe you over me?  His best friend?’  When that doesn’t work, he gets violent.  A grown man repeatedly chocking a seventeen-year-old girl.  This should be horrifying, but because Sadie is written as such a stereotype, it just becomes ridiculous.  What we end up with is a predator and an emotionally unstable cliché with a pair of scissors.  Just who are we supposed to sympathise with here?  Both?  Neither?
The answer is David.  As Sadie’s father and Mark’s best friend, Simon Ryerson, as David, does most of the emotional heavy lifting.  His character throughout the piece is the most genuine and most engaging and Ryerson carries it well.  I really shouldn’t enjoy the thought of someone being brutally murdered, but the last fifteen minutes of the play was mostly spent mentally willing David to just grab the cricket bat and have at it already.  Verity, Mark’s patient but assertive wife, is well portrayed by Niki Mylonas, as is DI Kane played by Rosalie Carn.  Michael Mayne might only have one scene as private eye Denly, but he steals the show with the time is given.
Overall, I found She Wears Scented Rose frustrating. There is so much lost potential and so many missed opportunities here.  Senna has all the pieces needed to create not just an entertaining thriller, but a story that could really explore some genuinely discomforting topics such as consent, gender politics, sexuality, and masculinity.  Unfortunately, we stay in the realm of safe and familiar clichés of sexy psychological thrillers.  Corners are cut and decisions veer towards what is easy instead of what could have been really daring.  Dare I say it, be even more ambitious and bold and Senna will have something really great in his hands. ​

Melissa Syversen

April 2017


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