The Cloakroom Attendant
Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 30th July 2018
“A charming memoir of the working every(wo)man, proving the pleasure and relief escapism can bring”
The Camden Fringe Festival is here again and it seems to be frothing to the brim with more new, exciting, wacky and thought-provoking performances than ever. While many are heading up north, over the Scottish boarder, to take in the crazy delights of the Edinburgh Fringe, those of us staying in the capital can be just as entertained over this next month with a huge selection of shows in various venues. One such show to help kick-start the festival is The Cloakroom Attendant. An autobiographical one-woman play written and performed by Dimitra Barla, it is a sweet and whimsical look into the realities and fantasies of the woman we all encounter to take our coats and hand us a little ticket – someone who rarely gets given a voice. Having already toured around Europe and performed at The Wallace Collection, The Cloakroom Attendant is once again at your service to take your belongings and regale you with a tale or two.
Margot is the cloakroom attendant of a prestigious art gallery. To pass the time away at her rather tedious job, she amuses us audience members with her insights she has made on life. People watching the visitors who come in and out of the museum has made her quite the expert on the human condition. Contemplating her own personal issues as well as more universal matters; Margot becomes inspired and swept up in the paintings that surround her, living within her fantastical stories. Even if it’s only until the next customer arrives.
With just a rail of hangers of varying clothing items, and a couple of picture frames, Barla is able to paint a clear and vivid image of the eclectic visitors she encounters, as well as the world within the gallery, and not to mention her highly imaginative mind, in which she often resides. With help from director Natalie Katsou, together they have created a stylised piece, offering inventive movement around the stage, which provides a satisfying aesthetic to what could have been quite a static, lacklustre show.
At times where Barla’s Margot is lost in her own world, or in the characters she constructs from the figures within the paintings, there is a loss of clarity. However, it is the amusing steps of what it takes to be a cloakroom attendant (the passive aggressive stage, the jealous stage, the ‘just keep smiling’ stage) that really is most engaging. Anyone who has worked in a customer facing position will be able to relate, with a chuckle and a wry smile, to the ever-so-true scenario’s Dimitra Barla depicts. A charming memoir of the working every(wo)man, proving the pleasure and relief escapism can bring.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Yiannis Katsaris
The Cloakroom Attendant
Tristan Bates Theatre until 4th August 2018
as part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018