The Other Room continues their second season, entitled Insomnia, with a play from award winning playwright Nick Gill (Mirror Teeth, Fijiland, The Trial). Having just come from their very well received first instalment, a double bill of Play/Silence by Beckett/Pinter, the expectations are high. Of course Nick Gill doesn’t have the history that his predecessors have but has indeed made a name for himself on the London circuit both with his music and his playwriting.
In a previous life, he was part of a group called The Apathists, a group of writers who staged plays and ‘happenings’ around London in 2006/2007 causing all sorts of chaos and controversy – already intriguing isn’t he. In his company at the time was the notable playwright Mike Bartlett (Not Talking, Earthquakes in London). These are not guys that are afraid to say something about the world in their work.
As for Sand, it takes nuclear weapon development and deployment as it subject matter in what is a multifaceted 40 minute script bouncing from the sterile to the deeply heart wrenching in its imagery and content. The script itself does not specify how many actors to use or name any characters that speak – this is left to the director. It could, for example, work with 50 people on stage or it could work with one. It could even work as radio monologue, each version of course saying or exploring something different. No matter the casting choices, however, the script manages to present many disparate voices.
The title, it would seem, is an apt metaphor for any seemingly apocalyptic scenario denoting both something that is wholly overwhelming in it’s singularity whilst remaining multifaceted and even broken – a little like what I’d imagine impending doom to feel like. The structure of the script, too, lends itself to the notion that the world is being battered and broken down more and more everyday. There is a sense of inevitable destruction of all things beautiful from nature to humanity. The script, much like the world within it, crescendos and climaxes into a collapse toward the end.
The Other Room, like the play’s original production at the Royal Court, have chosen to cast a lone actor to deliver this verbal blitz to its audience. However, disaster struck about a week or so before curtain up. A press release tells us that due to unforeseen circumstances they have had to recast the only part in the production. Except it wasn’t disaster after all. They managed to get Sara Lloyd-Gregory and boy did they strike it lucky.
Director Kate Wasserberg introduced the performance telling us what has happened and as a result the performance needed to be script in hand. So expectations are altered a little and you tell yourself to allow for fumbles and stumbles. But they never came! Lloyd-Gregory’s performance was magnificent. Gill’s language and its fluidity were never interrupted for a second with each nuance being observed beautifully. The gradual start and chaotic finish were fantastically measured and choreographed by Wasserberg. This was all done through language being wonderfully underpinned by Lloyd-Gregory’s stillness.
The set (Amy Jane Cook) was very simple consisting of what looked to be 5 or 6 under-lit door frames all receding in size from downstage to upstage as if it could go on for ever – perhaps a reference to the earlier design of their existential offering of Pinter’s Silence. Again this started strong and gradually broke down through the use of a clever lighting design (Katy Morison).
They triumph gloriously again just reinforcing The Other Room as the success they have become.
Sand by Nick Gill, The Other Room, Porters Bar, Cardiff
Directed by Kate Wasserberg
Images: Aenne Pallasca