Venue: Drama Barn
Running until: 6th February
Directed by: Elliot Kinnear and Katie Coates
Written by: Elliot Kinnear
Defenestrated is a sell-out: and rightly so. This funny, yet psychologically charged and somewhat tragic play is heavily dialogue-driven, which is particularly impressive as it is student-written. “Order cannot make sense out of chaos,” says the man in the bowler hat, and the inability to accept this becomes both the downfall of our main character – bright, young and confident detective Richard Muller – and, as the play argues, the downfall of anyone who feels a degree of social responsibility. Incorporating madness, paranoia and a soul-eating fear of failure into its agenda, Defenestrated is doubtless ambitious and not unsuccessful in its aim to cover all this alongside its well-timed comic relief and existentialist musings.
At first, Muller is certain that he won’t meet the same fate as his predecessor, the brilliant detective Jerry Young. Young threw himself out of his office window, driven mad by the unsolvable case in his hands: a triple murder by an evasive man in a bowler hat. As he grows increasingly frustrated with the case and paranoid about his co-workers – the insipid secretary; the iron-fisted superintendent; the eccentric duo, Mr. Green and Mr. Grocer; and the weak-willed lawyer – he begins to realise every step he takes mirrors what Young had done leading up to his suicide. The belief that his own failure and consequent self-defenestration is inevitable is fuelled by the pressures of an ever-disappointed father, a bad break-up and a coldly impersonal psychiatrist, pushing us towards a tragic climax and chillingly ambiguous closing scene.
This is very well written work that tries to give the audience a bit of everything, be it a domestic spat or a sombre meditation on death. It is perhaps this which is also responsible for the rare times when the dynamic, timing or dialogue of the play feels strained. The scenes of interaction between Muller and his girlfriend sometimes don’t feel as comfortably written or executed as the comedy or the action; indeed, the dynamic of their phone conversation is rather stony, the words perhaps a touch too wooden, even before the break-up call. Also, there were numerous scenes that emphasised Muller’s descent into madness, which was effective in exploring obsession, but his circular and frantic tirade aimed at Mr. Green was quite a challenge to follow.
However, these things were outweighed by a long list of aspects much deserving of praise. The stage and prop design had an attention to detail that was immensely successful in making us feel the cramped, stale office atmosphere; the acting was skilled, especially the ear-grating “femininity” of Lily the secretary and Muller raging at the psychiatrist; and of course the window – what a window! Almost personified, both sinister and comically melodramatised, that white frame and the void beyond has yielded a play definitely worth seeing.