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The Blue Room - Review by Gray Milner

Published: 8th March 2013 12:27

By Gray Milner 

At the Groundlings Theatre until March 9th, show starts at 8pm: Contains adult themes and mild nudity, suitable for ages 15 and over. 

Directed by: Abbie Lucas. Starring: Sydnee Howard & Nicholas Anscombe. Adapted by David Hare from La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler

The Blue Room allows the audience to observe from close proximity the nuances of the sexual politics encountered by ten individuals through their lustful wants.

There is no main plot to The Blue Room as the play is a series of scenes which glimpses in at a non-specified time when one character meets up with the next be they politician, playwright, taxi driver, housewife, actress or au-pair, meetings which inevitably lead in nearly all instances to what at times are crude meaningless sexual dalliances.

No one character appears more than twice within the daisy chain of meetings which all occur within the setting of modern day London. Each meeting, whether planned or totally random, depicts a sojourn into the truth of what at times are desperate and disparate sexual liaisons and the ramifications they can have upon not only our lives but of those around us.

The central link between all ten scenes is that one of the characters appeared in the previous scene, there is no other specific link between characters although there is a cross over between a husband and wife and their own separate immorality.  

In the Groundlings' production of ‘The Blue Room', all ten characters within the play are performed as a two-hander by Sydnee Howard and Nicholas Anscombe just as David Hare devised within his modern and highly successful adaptation. As a two-hander ‘The Blue Room' demands the absolute best from each actor as they transform from one character to the next behind screens placed on each side of the stage then bring them to life as they step from behind the screen and in front of the audience. This is a very demanding play as each actor is required to convince the audience of each new character with the same immediacy as the sex acts which take place within the play. The minimal stage setting, also prescribed by Hare in his adaptation, brings in some delightful ad-lib style scene changes as stage hands interact neatly with the characters when creating the new setting after each scene has concluded. There is no real time scale at play between the scenes, they could occur within the space of a week or over a period of years. The only time reference is the length of time the act of sex lasts for, and acts almost as an end of scene indicator to the audience.

There is sex of many kinds with scenes of debauched outdoor immediate gratification to scenes of genuine if brief moments of tenderness. There are also implied threats of violence, blackmail, scenes of drug taking and the fear of the paparazzi all played out with sensitivity and malevolence in equal quantity. The one thing that is missing from all of these dalliances is the feeling of love as each encounter inevitably ends in failure or disappointment once the moment of sexual pleasure is achieved and forgotten.

David Hare's adaptation of Schnitzler's original piece does not alter dramatically from the original; it merely changes the position within society of each character and makes the encounters a little more abstract. Hare's adaptation concentrates on the dangers of acting upon urges and the needs of modern day short-lived immediacy, all wrapped up in the danger and threats lying and cheating inevitably brings to a relationship. It is not just sexual morality at question here but the question of morality across all areas of our lives, whilst at the same time pointing towards the gains and pleasure achieved from a meaningful kiss or the touch of holding hands and the trust that comes within the joy of true love.

Abbie Lucas' direction takes Hare's play and, through careful construct, transports you through the, at times, minefield of encounters portrayed within the play as its central themes of sexual power, human frailty, lust and betrayal are all nakedly explored before you, and acted with great skill and lightness of touch by Sydnee and Nicholas. This is community theatre at its best and bringing West End successes to a local audience.

For bookings you can contact the box office on 023 9273 7370 and or visit the Groundlings' website  for a full listing of The Groundlings' ongoing season of shows.           

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