facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close home newspaper-o perm_device_information restaurant school stay_current_landscape ticket train

Review: The Two Popes at Rose Theatre

Yasmin Elkilany

By Yasmin Elkilany First Published 14 September 2022, Last Updated 21 April 2023

From the writer of the Academy Award-winning Bohemian Rhapsody, Darkest Hour and The Theory of Everything comes the play that sparked a major motion picture – The Two Popes, currently playing at the Rose Theatre. The Two Popes is a fascinating and humorous story that shines a light into one of the world’s most secretive institutions. At its heart lies a timeless question: in moments of crisis, should we follow the rules or our conscience? 

Upon entering the auditorium, you’re introduced to the venue of Saint Peter’s Basilica, where the Pope Benedict XVI’s inauguration takes place. The staging, lighting and sound of the opening scene immediately portray the significance of the Pope as a religious and political figure to the masses, setting a precedent for the intimate and exhilarating drama to follow. The show then insightfully explores the troublesome journey of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation; the first Pope in 700 years to do so. 

The stage set up as Saint Peter's Basilica

The show stars Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones, The Crown, Endeavour) and Nicholas Woodeson (Baptiste, The Death of Stalin, The Danish Girl), who both give exceptionally gripping performances. I especially enjoyed their moments of confrontation on stage – both of their performances are subtle yet emotional. The show explores an abundance of rich themes including the nature of truth and what we believe in, as well as humorously yet importantly raising issues within (and beyond) institutionalised religion. 

A line that stood out to me was Pope Benedict XVI’s statement that ‘we all have spiritual pride’. Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bergoglio’s discussion of who is fit to be Pope, whereby they discuss the nature of their sins, portray the individual struggle to reconcile and overcome our transgressions. The show sensitively explores philosophical themes and points, such as how we can often criticise ourselves to a harsher degree than others. An important motif was the wavering nature of religious faith in the world – despite Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bergoglio’s differences, their belief in God unifies them.

The Rose Theatre, located in the borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames, is more than just an auditorium. You can drop into the Rose Cafè for a bite to eat or a drink whether you are buying a ticket or not, and you can buy tickets for future shows from the Box Office. It’s a lovely place to study, catch up with friends and take a brief break from the drama.

One of my favourite things about the Rose Theatre is its riverside location in the centre of Kingston-Upon-Thames on the high street. There are an abundance of riverside restaurants as well as shops close-by, so you can really make your theatre trip into an experience.

The Two Popes is directed by James Dacre (2020 Olivier Award nominated Our Lady of Kibeho) with original music by Grammy and BRIT Award-winning composer Anne Dudley. Take a look at the trailer for The Two Popes to give you a glimpse into the exhilarating atmosphere of the show:

If you want to see a show that will keep you thinking about religion, philosophy, and truth, then The Two Popes is for you. The show is only on until 23 September, so book now!


Sign up

anthony mccarten anton lesser james dacre nicholas woodeson Review rose theatre the two popes

Related articles