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Rika’s Rooms | Playground Theatre

A triple act of plays under the same author kicked off at the Playground Theatre, with Rika’s Rooms. The run will conclude on Saturday, followed by Gail Louw’s The Girl In The Green Jumper, and Storming.


The story follows Rika on a back and forth journey through a timeline that is only just managing to stay upright. She grapples with grief and trauma exacerbated by dementia, and highlights that this is the crux of the story that we are witnessing: a woman weighed down by painful memories of her own life, jumbled up and threatening to collide into the present.  


Based on Louw’s own mother, the writing of this character felt deeply personal and rooted in lived-experience of obstinate Rika, who is convinced of a plot against her in the present day, as she is chauffeured to and from hospitals and care homes, whilst fully convinced that she is back in Jerusalem. The contrasting of such locations make this a gripping story that needs nothing fancy to communicate it but actor Emma Wilkinson Wright’s shrill screams and excellent characterisation.


The overarching themes contained within Rika’s Rooms are politically charged on a micro level and reveal in a snapshot how our titular character sees the changing landscapes playing out in front of her. Whether in the present as an aggressive woman herded about by carers and nurses, or carrying out the wishes of others as a freedom fighter for the greater good, she is not one to go quietly.


It’s clear that the pace of this story is intended to give the audience time to ponder on our main character Rika, most obviously from the fact that this is a play of only one actress in the cast. However, the depth into which Wilkinson Wright is able to explore personalities other than our namesake is utterly bewitching and felt like the standout experience of this show. Her ability to put on multiple hats and be so many different characters was outstanding!


To emphasise the gravity of a show with just one actor keeping our attention, the set design, lighting and sound effects were all carefully considered so as not to detract too much from the actor, and all functioned convincingly enough to carry the story. These elements were nothing revolutionary, and at times, felt somewhat wedged in, for example the sounds of care home emergency buzzers or a creaky door.


This was something wholly special to witness. A moving narrative of a woman that before yesterday was a vague character name within a play to be seen. The callbacks to Jewish history felt timely, the central place to be explored through Rika’s eyes was evocative, and the conclusion of such a performance left the audience with plenty to reflect on, as they wandered back into their own lives. Having seen Rika’s Rooms as a study into one story, lived out with multiple tendrils and side passages, all thrown into chaos by the unreliability of the human mind in its ageing stages.

Rika's Rooms runs at the Playground Theatre until 10th March. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Bastian Knapp


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