Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia conjures the atmosphere of being trapped extremely effectively, as well as delving into the idea that we are all, in a way, trapped in prisons of our own making.

Unfortunately, however, the characters themselves are not particularly likeable. A great deal of energy is spent on illustrating the nature of their psychological problems, but virtually none on any of their other characteristics.

The play follows the story of two ordinary people who get trapped in a lift. Over the course of the hours they are forced to spend in there, we learn a bit about the two of them and the events in their pasts that act as psychological prisons for them both. It uses a mixture of very naturalistic, often comic, acting alongside some rather more stylistic techniques to convey its ideas.

The performances of the two actors are far and away the highlight of the play. Jessica Macdonald is a strong comic actor, managing to keep a wholly naturalistic style while still being very funny. When she is required to handle more serious material, she proves herself equally adept. Paul Tinto executes a lot of high drama without ever descending into melodrama, and his initial laconic persona is very well executed. Both the roles are very demanding and the actors really rise to the challenge.

Unfortunately, however, the characters themselves are not particularly likeable. A great deal of energy is spent on illustrating the nature of their psychological problems, but virtually none on any of their other characteristics. We are given enough to make us feel sympathetic towards them, but not enough to make us want to be around them.

The use of space is very effective. The 'lift' is simply a marked out space in the centre of the stage and the presence of the large unused section of the stage strongly evokes the wide world outside of the characters' literal and metaphorical prisons.

At times, however, the impressively conveyed atmosphere of claustrophobia and boredom becomes rather too effective. In doing such a good job of conveying the ordeal of spending hours and hours trapped in a lift with a stranger, the play asks the audience to put up with a little too much. It is some way into the play, for example, before the characters progress beyond small talk. While this wins points for realism, it is quite hard to sit through.

In all, this is a well executed piece of theatre that conveys its eponymous theme perhaps too effectively.

Reviews by Grace Knight

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

‘We could do whatever we like in here and no one would ever know’. ‘Apart from you and me’. A woman. A man. Trapped in a lift. Isolated from the outside world, games and fantasies blur into memories neither wishes to confront. The debut play from novelist Jason Hewitt (The Dynamite Room). Starring Jessica Macdonald (Minotaur, Death & Treason at Bristol Old Vic) and Paul Tinto (Blackwatch, Chariots of Fire, Time of Strife). ‘Superb. Absorbing, suspenseful and with a beautifully poetic touch’ (Nathan Filer on Jason Hewitt's The Dynamite Room).

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