REVIEW: Rough Crossing is a fast-paced, sometimes confusing, play within a play

Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing is at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing is at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

Fast-paced and deliberately confusing, Rough Crossing is a challenging watch but worth sticking it out for the witty, self referential performances from its small cast.

Rough Crossing is at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: PAMELA RAITH

Rough Crossing is at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: PAMELA RAITH - Credit: Archant

Although the plot is sometimes difficult to follow and understand (a regular feature of Tom Stoppard’s works), the well-timed sentences and clever characterisation help to carry it along.

The plot itself centres on a playwright, impresario and composer on board an ocean liner who are attempting to come up with a new play that they’ll perform upon arrival in New York.

The difference, though, is that we the audience watch the action unfold on stage and follow the play’s development - a play within a play, essentially, that’s full of purposeful interruptions and one continually funny running joke about the playwright never actually getting his cognac.

It’s a tricky device to pull off and sometimes the audience don’t seem to have a grip on what’s happening; but thankfully the second half offers more straight forward laughs and is (slightly) easier to follow.

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Standout performances come from bumbling waiter Dvornichek (played to perfection with well-timed wit by Charlie Stemp) and John Partridge (who is most known for playing Christian Clarke in the BBC’s EastEnders) is great as the egotistical yet commanding writer Turai.

Issy Van Randwyck is equally impressive as theatrical eccentric ‘star’ Natasha.

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Rough Crossing, then, is a play that requires the audience’s full attention - especially during the lengthy monologues and because of the deliberately challenging language that’s used to fit the 1930s time period.

By the end, though, the whole thing comes together as the plot points are sewn together into a cohesive whole.

Rough Crossing is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday April 13. Performance dates, times and tickets are available via

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