RoosevElvis

Theatre, Experimental
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 2 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
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 (© Sue Kessler)
1/12
© Sue Kessler

Kristen Sieh

 (© Sue Kessler)
2/12
© Sue Kessler

Libby King and Kristen Sieh

 (© Sue Kessler)
3/12
© Sue Kessler

Kristen Sieh and Libby King

 (© Sue Kessler)
4/12
© Sue Kessler

Kristen Sieh and Libby King

 (© Sue Kessler)
5/12
© Sue Kessler

Kristen Sieh and Libby King

 (© Sue Kessler)
6/12
© Sue Kessler

Kristen Sieh

 (© Sue Kessler)
7/12
© Sue Kessler

Libby King

 (© Sue Kessler)
8/12
© Sue Kessler

Libby King and Kristen Sieh

 (© Sue Kessler)
9/12
© Sue Kessler

Kristen Sieh and Libby King

 (© Sue Kessler)
10/12
© Sue Kessler

Kristen Sieh and Libby King

 (© Sue Kessler)
11/12
© Sue Kessler

Libby King

 (© Sue Kessler)
12/12
© Sue Kessler

Libby King and Kristen Sieh

This mad roadtrip takes one too many turns but with The TEAM at the wheel there's still plenty to boggle at.

Picture Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis Presley in a motel room in Missouri. Roosevelt removes his cowboy hat and snaps down the sofa-bed with brisk proficiency. Elvis changes into a monogrammed gown and suggests ordering pizza. The 26th President of the United States and The King of Rock'n'Roll have just broken down during the strangest buddy road trip in non-history. Now imagine that ‘Thelma and Louise’ is playing on the motel telly.

Revived for the tenth anniversary of experimental Brooklyn ensemble The TEAM, ‘RoosevElvis’ is a conceptually bizarre, thematically far-reaching mash-up. It’s half hallucinatory road movie starring two contrasting icons of masculinity, half the coming of age story of a chronically ordinary and emotionally lost 30-something lesbian. Two brilliant comic performances, born from rigorous research and intense acts of gender-bending empathy, make this a surprisingly easy sell from the get-go.

Libby King plays both Elvis and Ann, who has a job in a meat factory, a penchant for y-fronts, and an unfulfilled dream of visiting Graceland. Each evening she returns to her South Dakota apartment, stuffs a bag of beers in the fridge, and chats with the sofa-surfing spirit of Elvis. Kristen Sieh plays both Roosevelt and Ann’s internet date, Brenda. A taut-limbed taxidermist, Brenda is as self-assured as Ann is doubting.

It’s never going to work, and a ‘romantic’ trip in Ann’s RV soon stalls. Instead, unlikely bro-love blossoms between the two famous spirits hitching a ride in the women’s personalities. King’s Elvis is lonesome, languorous and slightly lumpen. Sieh’s buckskinned Roosevelt is a hilariously shrill send-up of a man with such moral drive and terrifying personal energy that he once gave a 90-minute speech with a fresh bullet in his chest.

In the show’s standout sequence, the pair trade ludicrous displays of machismo. Elvis karate chops five Hot Tasty Pizza boxes. Roosevelt dons boxing gloves, calls to a stagehand to cue up a big-screen replay of ‘Planet Earth’, and proceeds to punch the shit out of a herd of VCR bison.

‘RoosevElvis’ is about the performance of masculinity, the multiplicity of personality, the shakiness of gender, the false fixity of fame and the role of American mythology in the contemporary psyche. It’s probably about a bit too much, to be honest, especially when you factor in a fiddly video element. But when a company as talented as The TEAM serve an all-you-can-eat-feast, it’s worth adjusting your waistband.

By: Bella Todd

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Daniel L
Tastemaker

i wonder whether the farcical humour didn't resonate, or if I too had to be hallucinating in order to fully appreciate this performance. I struggled to see the relevance of many of the scenes. This was also the first time I ever saw set changes from the backstage crew that crossed right in front of the main actresses while they were speaking and one of them even sat on the stage in plain view after moving the set. 


I understand this is a place for up and coming writers and will continue to support, but this would not be one of the best things I have seen this year personally.

John C
tastemaker

This latest production from the Royal Court does what it says on the tin. My problem was I didn't study the tin. I struggled to figure out what it was all about.

Was it a road movie, an underground film, a tribute to "Thelma & Louise", or an evening of Elvis impersonations - with President Roosevelt thrown in. It was 90 minutes long, with no interval. To me it seemed a very long 90 minutes, and if there had been an interval I have to confess I would have been on the train home.

Later I read the tin which told me the play was a "hallucinatory road trip" with the "spirits of Elvis Presley and Theodore Roosevelt" battling over the soul of "a painfully shy meat-processing plant worker"  

Well I'm pleased that at least I got the road trip bit.

O. Gordon
Tastemaker

This was a very bizarre play. Addressing the way American's live, both today and in the past, it opens with Roosevelt and Elvis offering up facts about their lives to the audience in a compare and contrast kind of way. From here, we move onto two modern day characters who plan road trip. 


Aided by green screens, microphones, moving set walls and a bunch of televisions, there is always something to keep your eye on. Being a two hander with so much manual set movement, the stage hands become a regular stage presence but the in their ever changing worlds they never become a distraction. How all the individual moments were brought together must have been an epic headache for the team as the whole show seems so disjointed. Although a linear narrative is never a necessity, I felt the constant movement from character to character or from place to place gave it a feel more akin to a sketch show.


The actors do a brilliant job and their chemistry is what you'd expect from a producing company that have been together for over a decade. Their exchanges are tight and flowing and they carry the 95 minute show with aplomb. I did feel that the characters were slightly one sided in their writing as one had far more comedy than the other but, for me, it was merely a niggle rather than an issue. 


This play was a bit of an enigma to me. Some points it made about American culture were very prominent but I can't help but feel some of it was lost on a British audience. It made me think and yet it baffled me at points. Summary: something different but it won't be to all tastes.