Venue: Drama Barn
‘No Exit’ is the perfect play for a small stage and its current run at the Drama Barn proves that. With a cast of only four and lasting barely an hour and a half, it becomes twice as intense when the stage is only an arm’s reach away. Every detail matters in a piece like this and the production depends on an excellent team which, luckily for us, is exactly what Lievesley (director) has found.
The play, set in Sartre’s vision of hell, was not nearly as abstract as I was expecting. The plot is strongly character driven and we get to know the characters well, quickly, as they get to know each other. There is thorough fast-moving tension as they try to understand and deal with their new situation, simultaneously trying to understand and deal with each other. Once brought on, the three main cast members remain on stage for the duration of the play and are constantly under the spotlight. Even when the focus is brought to one particular character and their memories, we can look back and scrutinise how the other characters react to what they’re saying; Miranda Batki-Braun (Estelle) is particularly good at this and you can see her face twist and respond to every word said. Angus Bower Brown (Garcin) takes quite a different but equally as effective approach, keeping completely stationary and reflecting his character’s desire to distance himself from the others.
Inez (Elvie Broom), a sadomasochistic lesbian, is exceptionally fun to watch. Unlike the others she seems to embrace her situation and a lot of the drama comes from her desire to taunt the other characters. Broom puts on an outstanding Machiavellian performance of the role. She is assisted by her positioning on a platform above the other two characters, and she takes her seat above them as though it is a throne. The dramatic highlight is when she domineeringly tries to seduce Estelle and, collaborating well with Batki-Braun, we can really sense Estelle’s fear.
The set remained constant and minimalist throughout the single scene but intelligent use of the lighting changed the shape of the stage – often halving it to focus in on one character, to further intensify the ongoing drama. The costume choices were subtle but illuminating, with a notable and telling contrast between the close-fitting dress of Batki-Braun and the loose pyjamas worn by Broom. Again, the white surgical gloves of the Valet (Sam Zak) did their part in making his character all the more sinister.
I think they could have done with slowing the tempo towards the end, drawing a passage or two away from the whole. For all the clever stage craft, I didn’t feel like I came away with a poignant line or idea at the end. It touched on the way that we interact with people but I would have liked a little more to sink my teeth into. I don’t really mind though, because from start to finish I was thoroughly entertained. If you want to see a good piece of drama this weekend, this is what you should see.