Venue: Drama Barn
Rating: * * *
As the lights went up on a madly staring William Seaward in full bishop’s regalia, it seemed that pantomime had succeeded in penetrating the usually more sober Drama Barn. However, it soon became apparent that Jean Genet’s play had rather more substance.
The work is nothing if not complex. Throughout, the nature of illusion and reality is explored. Set in Madame Irma’s brothel, or as she inconsistently prefers, “House of Illusions”, the central idea of image is considered through the bizarre fantasies of the clients, and later the fallout of revolution in the city outside.
A play of this scope, so explicitly designed was an ambitious project indeed, and occasionally the deeply complicated dialogue suffered from being cut. The strongest elements of the play were the more fluid scenes in the second act, when full use was made of the impressively painted stage. The comic trio of Seaward, James Duckworth and Matthew Lacey were outstanding, as was Sarah Barker’s Madame Irma, though at times she lacked the regal presence the part demanded.
In a play so fundamentally concerned with creating illusion, it is ironic perhaps that the production failed to fully draw the audience into its reality; but in reducing the audience to voyeurs, peeping into Drama Barn as Irma peeps into her studios, the audience were just another level of unreality.