The Dark Room
Reviewed – 13th November 2017
“raises issues that are still prevalent today and are much closer to home”
There’s something sinister about quiet, shabby motel rooms. Something lonely, something that’s not quite right. They are the sort of places you may end up in when there are no options left. Angela Betzien’s work left me utterly heartbroken, her interweaving storylines reuniting to form a completely tragic story.
We meet three sets of characters: troubled, erratic and suicidal young Grace and her carer Anni, policeman Stephen with his pregnant wife Emma and lastly Stephen’s boss Craig who is joined by Joseph, a young man in a wedding dress. The production cleverly transitions between one group of characters and the next, never leaving the motel room. From the word go, everything moves very fast.
During the opening scene we are left desperately guessing why the young woman in front of us insists on wearing a bag over her head, yelling at her companion – and why does she hide a kitchen knife under the mattress? Has she been abducted? Is she safe?
Annabel Smith (Grace) truly encapsulates a young woman with many, many demons and a lot of internal suffering. From her emotional bitterness to her physical violence, Grace’s character is unpredictable and at times very frightening. Smith fills the audience with unease, we really don’t know where her mood will take us next.
Both Stephen (Tamlyn Henderson) and Craig (Alasdair Craig) move about the stage in a guilty, secretive bubble of awkwardness. Which one of them has done something unspeakable? Perhaps the ghost of the young man in the wedding dress has something to do with it.
The eerie lighting (Will Monks) added a touch of horror – I have lost count of the amount of scary movies that take place in similar hotels – and during the scenes where we are plunged into darkness, we can only speculate as to what awaits when the lights come up.
With a pleasingly shabby motel set by Jemima Robinson and smooth direction from Audrey Sheffield, The Dark Room is a thrilling eye-opener. It may be based on Australia’s shadowy history of ill treatment of its own society’s most vulnerable, but it raises issues that are still prevalent today and are much closer to home .
Reviewed by Stephanie Legg
Photography by Alex Brenner
THE DARK ROOM
is at Theatre 503 until 2nd December