Friday, 21 August 2009
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: No Way Out (Huis Clos)
No Way Out (Huis Clos)
Southwark Playhouse, London Bridge
Latecomers are annoying. No matter how much they try to make themselves invisible by sneaking in all hunched over and squeaky shoed, they can be seen and do manage to cause a disturbance. Tonight, the entrance of two rather dishevelled, embarrassed looking slow-pokes comes on cue as Garcin, padding the cell he has just been locked in, calls for someone to open the door. In walk Benny and June No Watch not necessarily answering his calls but certainly distracting all from the rising tension.
Tonight we are at the Southwark Playhouse for No Way Out (Huis Clos), John Paul Sartre’s black comedy that is offered here in a translation by Frank Hauser. The action begins with Garcin (Miguel Oyarzun) entering the prison like space of the transformed playhouse with the door bolted behind him. It soon transpires that he is to be confined to this sinister Orwellian feeling room - where he expects to meet torturers, racks and burning flames – until the end of time. He is then joined, not by the two sneaky squeakers, but first by the flame haired Elisa de Grey’s Ines and then the glamorous Estelle, played by Alexis Terry. We soon realise that they are not in some form of 1950s interrogation room, but in Hell and that they will be each others interrogators as we uncover why they have been sent to the burning depths.
The premise of the play is a highly evocative one. Three characters, trapped in a room in Hell simultaneously becoming each others confidants and persecutors. And the play starts on fine form placing one foot in the comic, with the other sitting comfortably in the tragic. However, the undulating tempo moving from high frequency screaming to down beat soul searching soon becomes rather predictable and repetitive. Oyarzun is successfully brooding, progressing from distinguished gent to almost sadistic brute as the heat in the room goes up and his clothes begin to come off. Likewise, Terry’s poised elegance is soon cast aside as her actions become increasingly manic and she is exposed for being an attention-seeking nymphomaniac. Unfortunately Elisa de Grey’s performance jars with the rest as her over-excessive facial expressions and spiky accusational tone make her seem like the precocious younger child who craves love and attention.
The dark, almost dank feel of the Southwark Playhouse lends itself beautifully to Sartre’s play and I can’t help but feel that had Luke Kernaghan followed through some of his directorial ideas more fully – the recurring image of the Tango seems disjointed with the action and its only when reading about Kernaghan’s interest in the Argentinian war that it becomes clear – this could have been a truly exciting play.
No Way Out (Huis Clos) runs until 12th September