The Curing Room

The intriguing central premise of The Curing Room is based upon a terrifying true story. A captain, three lieutenants and three privates have been trapped and abandoned in a Polish cellar at the climax of the Second World War, awaiting liberation. It is a play about how rank maintains those in the rankest situations, and the proceedings are similar to that of Lord of the Flies or Heart of Darkness. The trouble is that it seems too similar, too predictable. Everything you expect to happen (cannibalism, power struggles, descents into insanity, the worship of nonhuman beings, the derivation of strength from song, debates regarding morality and survival) does happen.

From Matt Houston’s youthful optimism as Georgi to Marlon Solomon’s intellectual cynicism, Rupert Elmes’ sweetness to Will Bowden’s aggression, it is clear that this cast is giving it their all with occasionally remarkable consequences.

This would be fine, were the comic elements more effective or the characters more gripping, but as it stands, the tone is persistently grim. It would be more interesting to see more of their characters and their differentiated qualities initially, when they are still relatively strong, before watching them disintegrate. Instead they blend into one for a large portion of the play. It is true that there are a handful of jokes, but they are few and far between, feeling more like grabs at straws in the midst of despair than breaks in the tension.

Still, this production is undoubtedly professional, and often very beautiful. A number of its vignettes are truly picturesque. The stage is dank, rustic and slopes downwards towards the audience, which worked to enhance the deprivation in the scene and the sense of hardship. However, some of the blocking meant that it was extremely difficult to see the actors when they ventured towards the front of the stage.

All seven actors perform naked (and valiantly) throughout. This initially helped to show their vulnerability, but as the show went on it helped to illustrate their bestial side, as you could see their bare muscles twitch at the slightest hint of conflict. From Matt Houston’s youthful optimism as Georgi to Marlon Solomon’s intellectual cynicism, Rupert Elmes’ sweetness to Will Bowden’s aggression, it is clear that this cast is giving it their all with occasionally remarkable consequences.

This is a very serious piece of theatre well worth seeing, but much of the audience will leave feeling about as drained as the bloody carcasses onstage.

Reviews by Joanna Alpern

Finborough Theatre

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★★★
Park Theatre

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★★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

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★★★★★
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★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Interview

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The Bunker Trilogy: Macbeth

★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Spring 1944 - seven Soviet soldiers have been captured by the Nazis, stripped naked and abandoned in the locked empty cellar of a monastery in southern Poland. Deprived of all ties to their world, the prisoners redefine their concepts of order and human nature. In order to survive the men resort to murder and cannibalism. How do they reconcile rank, faith and dignity? Powerful, thought-provoking and darkly funny, The Curing Room by David Ian Lee and directed by Joao de Sousa is a bold, shocking thriller based on true events.