The Other Room Theatre kick of 2016 with their new season ‘Insomnia,’ bringing us a double bill of both Beckett and Pinter’s work. These 20th century playwrights are considered to be two of the most influential dramatists of all time.
The plays ‘Play’ by Beckett and ‘Silence’ by Pinter, both draw on themes around betrayal and lust. Both Kate Wasserberg, (director of ‘Play’ and Artistic Director of the Other Room) and Titas Halder, (director of ‘Silence’) made sure these plays were not only performed with great distinction but also showed great technical accomplishment.
Stepping into the first performance of the Other Room theatre there was soundscape in the background (composed and sound designed by Dyfan Jones) creating the mood that was hardly noticed at first but grew louder and louder until everyone was completely engaged and then it just cut out. A deathly silence where the audience was left in the pitch black, all senses removed, waiting in suspense. This was the first moment that completely drew me in to the performance, this moment never left me until I was ushered out of my seat. I was in complete awe at what I had just seen.
Floating heads on stage, muttering things one couldn’t comprehend, the imagery in this was beautiful. Then controlled by a single spotlight it shone onto the character speaking at the time with everything else surrounded in blackness. This technically was beautiful as we were transfixed on what was being shown. It felt like you were at a tennis match where you kept moving your head to the next performance not wanting to blink in case you missed the next moment.
The performers were incredible, their focused stare and fast paced speaking with hardly pausing was a treat to see. It was evident that they had complete dedication to this performance as their pronunciation was spot on even though the pace was remarkably difficult. The trio of performers even though they were speaking in quite a monotonous way showed great characterisation and we could fully get a sense of each personality.
After only knowing Matthew Bulgo through his great work as a playwright on ‘Last Christmas’ for Dirty Protest, his acting ability corresponded to the success of his play. Acting alongside him was Victoria John who showed comedy within this play and who’s laugh has to be up there with the greatest of evil laughs. Then Peta Cornish who captivated us with the use of her eyes and her elegant speaking voice.
This was a performance that frazzled my mind yet I would want to see it again and again just to get another glimpse into those lives.
The second performance, Pinter’s ‘Silence’ was technically less demanding but nonetheless just as beautiful, the simplistic set worked really well and it felt like the actors were in another dimension. What I noticed most of all was their use of spatial awareness, when one person moved to a different spot, the others would change their position so it always looked aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This was well thought through and blocked. The performers acting was equally accomplished with Matthew Bulgo playing Rumsey, showing us a more desperate side than the comical side we saw earlier, Peta Cornish playing Ellen uses her eyes as an emotive tool which was something I haven’t seen in a long time in a performance, truly remarkable. Then, Neal McWilliams playing Bates. Neal played a character who had a boyish charm that really put extra depth into this performance and made it stand out so much more. Each performer showed us what it felt like to be in desperation of love and hope, to have such strong feelings and the want to connect with one another.
This double bill was a great way to step out from the outer world into something much deeper. This is a performance that makes you feel something you definitely didn’t feel before entering the room. As an actor myself these plays are something every actor dreams to play, the way they are technically demanding for the voice and how you have to be completely disciplined with your whole body making sure you know every tiny movement you make will have great impact on the performance. I thoroughly enjoyed the night and cant wait to watch the Other Rooms next performance of ‘Sand’ by Nick Gill.
Photographic credit Pallasca Photography
It’s not often you get to say that you’ve seen both a Beckett and a Pinter play in one night, in an hour in fact. But The Other Room at Porter’s, yet again, delivers for it’s audiences a night of theatre that affects you and lets you indulge in it’s rarity.
‘Play’ begins, with whispers and hiccups from the faces in the glittering urns, designed wonderfully by (Amy Jane Cook). With the yellowish glow of rapid spotlights we hear the intricate thoughts of the man, the mistress and the wife. The hiccups, the pauses the whispers and the humour all a collection of brutally honest thoughts, each monologue justified by the other person’s words. On the left hand side we have W2, the wife of the man, played by Victoria John and next to her we have the Man in the middle (quite literally) played by Matthew Bulgo and to his right, W1, Peta Cornish, playing the mistress.
We race through the interior monologues, each contribution giving more than just verbal circumstance. We see what one could believe to be martial unhappiness mixed with a sense of neglect, regret and direct bitterness cleverly composed using just a few base notes and the odd pause, disguised as a ‘pardon’. The repetition in the piece doesn’t annoy, it’s evokes a different sense, a sense of memory. You feel comfortable enough to react but the lack of an entrance or exit reminds you that this is not a place to get comfortable in. To be alive in a funeral urn and only allowed to speak when the moonlight-like spotlight chooses you, in a place where you can’t imagine daylight- who knew it could be so comic?
After a short interval, one I wish hadn’t had to have taken place, we move on to ‘Silence’. A play that marked a change for Pinter, and certainly marks a change in this double bill. The actors are present on a well lit stage, looking lost in thought in a simple set of wooden side walls and a blank dim square at the back of the stage, representing a window.
Like ‘Play’, we are met by three characters, each sharing the space and look of nostalgia, and then Rumsey speaks. The interior monologue begins, this time casually, with a hopeless honesty exploring ‘the fleeting nature of love’ and the isolating recalling from what I gather to be different periods of time. Rumsey, played beautifully by Matthew Bulgo, poetically recalls his thoughts and ends as he begins, lonely and living from his past. Bulgo’s delivery of Rumsey’s first line is wonderfully ideal. We also meet The gentle Ellen played by Peta Cornish, who is this time, the lady in the middle. The middle of what is something that’s not completely clear from the text but as the monologues unfold we see the pasts of both these characters merge. We also meet Bates played by Neal McWilliams, a man who doesn’t share Rumsey’s soft tones but does share his interest in Ellen. He is the man Ellen had to choose after being rejected by Rumsey and ultimately, she loses loses him too, this time by choice, and they all have to live from within their memories and wonder what could’ve been, had life played out their ideal.
Both plays speak volumes and allow us as the audience to make sense of them, if we so wish. The directors Kate Wasserberg (Play) and Titas Halder (Silence), along with the entire cast and crew deserve multiple applause for attacking two brilliant plays and creating another fantastic night of insightful theatre.
Play/Silence runs at The Other Room at Porter’s until February 5th. It’s an unmissable double bill of the exact type of theatre we need. Go see, you won’t regret it!
Photographic credit Pallasca Photography
[vimeo 152270795 w=500 h=281]
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/152270795″>Play/Silence – a Beckett/Pinter double bill</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/tudleyjames”>TudorFilms</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>