I shan’t be coy. You should see RoosevElvis at the Royal Court. Not just for the spectacle of Roosevelt beating up a load of buffalo, although that was hilarious. It is funny and poignant and odd and has more layers than an onion. I was enthralled throughout the 90-odd minutes (it plays straight through) and found the playfulness (of the actors, and the text) totally charming and engaging. Never once did I feel that I had seen what I was watching before, or that I knew where things were going.
If I was to describe RoosevElvis, I might liken it to a quirky American indie film – Little Miss Sunshine, perhaps, which also has a road trip at its heart. Or Thelma and Louise, another buddy-comedy-road-trip, and which is referenced in the play itself. While you could say that there’s a general theme of someone “finding themselves” through the journey they take, RoosevElvis offers so much more than that whilst playing with those ideas: becoming, identity, courage, purpose. It also has a lot to say about gender and masculinity – represented in two forms by the titular pair, Teddy Roosevelt and Elvis Presley. The seemingly unlikely duo are figments of the protagonist’s imagination – probably – although they feel as ‘real’ and as much a part of the fabric of the play as Ann and the people she encounters along her way to Graceland, a trip which she’s been putting off for most of her life.
Ann has been stuck in a dead-end job at a meat packing plant since high school. At 35, she lives a solitary life, wanting more but also being content to stick to her own little bubble. After a fling with a woman she meets online, the ‘intrusion’ kicks up the dust and acts as a catalyst for Ann: ashamed of her lack of bravery, she finally embarks on that trip to Graceland, the home of her hero, Elvis, her constant companion. But they’re joined by Teddy Roosevelt – Elvis’ hero, and a very different sort of American icon…
Note: I found this in my drafts and, while it’s probably not finished (I guess that’s why it was left in drafts) it’s been too long now to add whatever I was going to. But it’s something that reflects what I thought of a thing I saw and enjoyed, and I thought I might as well post it. It’s nearly four years after the show closed (!) so you clearly can’t see the play at the Court, but if you do ever see it being revived anywhere, you should grab the chance with both hands. And anything by the creatives responsible for originating it – the TEAM – is likely to be a good night at the theatre.