"The Romans In Britain" provides interesting, impactful drama

Ensemble Theatre Company’s production is an interesting look into the parallels of imperialism throughout history.

Summer tends to bring plenty of lighthearted theatre offerings that allow you to sit back and enjoy fun songs, choreography, sets and costumes. But if you’re in the mood to shake things up a bit and experience some pretty heavy theatre in an intimate setting, Ensemble Theatre Company’s (ETC) The Romans in Britain is worth checking out.

Written by Howard Brenton, The Romans in Britain, which is part of ETC’s Summer Repertory Festival, is an abstract two-act play that commentates on imperialism throughout history, comparing ancient Roman imperialist days to more modern times, exploring the relationship between Britain and Ireland in the 1980s.

From left to right: Chad Ellis, Derick Neumeier and Ashley O'Connell. Photo credit: Thorsten Gohl.

The 17-member cast does an excellent job of portraying numerous characters throughout the varying plot lines, with strong performances especially from Chad Ellis, Christine Reinfort, Arianna McGregor and Ryan Scramstad. The script and dialogue in this play is complex and you’ll need to really pay attention and put on your thinking caps to understand what’s going on.

Luckily, Scramstad has a way of delivering his lines in such a genuine way that he really helps the audience understand what his character is saying. As a cook on the run during an imperialist takeover, McGregor provides some welcome comic relief.

A lot of the show calls upon the audience to use their imaginations. For example, while there’s no actual blood or gore onstage, these things are alluded to. There’s also the implication of a rape onstage. So this isn’t a show you’ll want to take kids to. And just be prepared for some pretty heavy stuff when you attend.

From left to right: Ennis Hannah and Derick Neumier. Photo credit: Thorsten Gohl.

The heaviness of the show is justified by the subject matter, which sends a strong message about global conflict. On opening night, there were a few dialogue blunders by the actors, but these were forgiven, given the complexity and amount of text. Director Richard Wolfe uses the stage of the Jericho Arts Centre creatively, utilizing the entire theatre-in-the-round style stage to provide up close and personal views for all audience members. 

The Romans in Britain is a theatre experience that provides some interesting history on imperialism and global expansion, as well as the chance to appreciate really great acting.

Ensemble Theatre Company’s (ETC) The Romans in Britain runs at the Jericho Arts Centre until Saturday, August 20th. For tickets and more information, visit ETC’s website