Sub Rosa is a promenade theatre performance set in a Masonic Lodge just off George Street in the New Town. Touring the building itself, never before opened to the public, is fascinating but the whole proceeding ends up feeling like a missed opportunity.
The story we are told is about Flora McIvor, a young girl fighting for her place in the hierarchy of a corrupt music hall theatre, which does slightly beg the question as to why it isn’t being performed in, for example, a theatre. There are Masonic elements incorporated into the text – the title for instance – but these feel very much like tacked-on afterthoughts rather than integral parts of the plot. It’s not that the Masonic lodge isn’t an interesting venue – it is – but it feels like it is wasted on a plot to which it has little relevance and the plot feels wasted on an unsuitable venue.
Perhaps Punchdrunk have given us unrealistic standards as to the level of detail one can expect from a site-specific performance, but Sub Rosa does feel woefully low budget and low thought in this respect: one stuffed animal and a couple of red filters do not an atmosphere make.
The plot itself is fine enough, but it never really elevates itself to the thoroughgoing examination of power and violence that it seems to hint at early on – and the final coup de theatre is underwhelming.