27-28 May 2016
Reviewed by Meresa Bergin
Stella is the beautiful and haunting tale of Ernest Boulton who was better known as Stella, a cross dressing man who lived in the 1870.This play shows us without holding back anything the life Stella lived, the highs and the very lows.
This play is unlike anything I have seen before, two actors play the roles of Stella and Ernest which to begin with was a little confusing for me. We had the elder man and the younger both together at the same time, I felt very much drawn to the elder role for you were able to see all the pain and heartache the younger had not yet uncounted in the same way. Both actors were remarkable and worked so well together, it must be difficult and a true act to be able to work this way and I have nothing but praise for their beautiful talent.
The simple stage set up was an ingenious idea as it allowed you to be fully pulled into the words of this person. It is difficult at times to know how to refer or review this in the right context or with the rightness it deserves. Stella so beautifully talks of this with her speech on being asked when she had finally become who she was, as if putting on a wig or a dress meant she had found her place and how people saw her as two people but clearly to be two people would mean madness surely? How can someone be a different person in public and another in private? How she was so many versions of herself with so many people it become so confusing that when she was alone, fully alone she had no idea who she was?
One of her famous lovers was a man named Lord Arthur Pelham-Clinton and through this love affair we were able to see Stella’s vulnerability and a true need to be loved even if it is not the right place or time.
For me Stella made me stop, she made me think of all I am and the versions I put out of myself. The idea of not being able to be who you are and being arrested for being so seems far from what I know and have experienced but yet this is still so current in so many ways we can relate to. Of being forced to show ones face in public as different to that in our hearts, of judgement and fears, of seeking a world that makes sense and a place we can actually be still, alone and not afraid of the person we are left with, the only true person that’s views matter, our own.
This is a remarkable play, it is a quiet one that is not screaming at you to be watched but it is one you must watch, one you must allow yourself to be pulled into, to face your fears and be pulled down into a dark place, for light cannot come without darkness and I think this is Stella’s biggest lesson to us, that light cannot be without darkness at its heels.
For other shows at the Theatre Royal in Brighton visit www.atgtickets.com/brighton.
Theatre Royal. New Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1SD | 0844 871 7650