The Other Room opens its second production in its ‘Life in Close Up’ season at Porters pub Cardiff. After the success of ‘Blasted’ by Sarah Kane a few weeks earlier, ‘The Dying of Today’ by Howard Barker was a perfect follow up for this season of plays.
Set in a 1960’s Barbers shop with only two actors. It was a great reenactment of Howard Barker’s work showcasing his creativity and his poet-like writing. The music, playing at the beginning, contextualised this scene and brought us straight into the barbers room while he was cutting the travellers hair. It’s exciting when you see a play that can change your mind and educate you into a whole new wavelength of conversations and the beauty at hearing ‘bad news’ can have. The traveller in this play is excited at the prospect of giving bad news, his excuse, “I think men are more beautiful flung down than standing up”. This line of thought caught my attention completely and made this play conform to the ‘Life in Close Up’ season theme.
Directed by Kate Wasserberg, she knew just how to present Barker’s work for the Other Room’s Theatre stage. The originality in some of the directing choices was inspiring. The symbolism of a small pawn chess piece representing the barbers son drew the audience into the story even more. Every time the Barber picked up the chess piece we knew instantly what he was thinking and found ourselves believing that one small chess piece was his son at war. Moreover Kate expanded the relationship between two strangers into something beautiful. When the Barber puts on his shoes for the lonely traveller towards the end of the show it was heartbreaking. Personally it felt like the Barber was adopting the traveller like his son. In the space of their hours conversation, meeting for the first time, those two characters shared something so big that they would forever have a connection, (good or bad) and thats due to the bringing of bad news.
Leander Deeny, showcases the traveller that is visibly excited at the prospect of giving bad news. Leander was engaging from the beginning and with his elevated mannerisms he created a strong character. For the first five minutes he solely takes the stage speaking of bad news while the Barber just listens. There wasn’t one moment when I felt my mind wander when he spoke, he completely had the audience in the palm of the hand. Christian Patterson, playing the Barber, takes The Other Room’s stage a second time after his success of playing the grotesque and corrupt character of Ian in Sarah Kane’s ‘Blasted’. Christian’s mannerisms at the start of ‘The Dying of Today’ were subtly engaging. As he was hearing the news from the traveller his facial expression grew more and more troubled until after not speaking for the first 5 minutes he speaks. Christians emotions goes through a whole roller coaster engaging us into his mind and his feelings. Christian was a perfect match for this character and not only did the character show how versatile he was as an actor, Christian gave the character of the Barber a thrilling stance.
Overall ‘The Dying of Today’ was a show that shouldn’t be missed, as an audience it felt like we were right there in the barber’s shop, eavesdropping on something bittersweet. The presence the actors had on stage should be admired for aspiring actors and if you want to see how two people can effortlessly own the whole stage then you need to watch this.
I’m thrilled and excited to see the final show ‘A Good Clean Heart’ in the Other Room Theatre of ‘Life in Close Up’.