Blackbox at The Bakehouse Theatre. 1 Nov 2012.
What if the walls of the room in which you are conducting a therapeutic message session could talk? What might they say? How would their reality interact with yours . . . and your clients? These three premises are explored in the current Blackbox production, If These Walls Could Talk, in the main space of the Bakehouse Theatre; a funny, serious, dramatic, almost French farce that performed to a packed opening night.
The playwright, Rita Papillo, spins a good yarn that operates on several planes at once, and this makes for a lot of fun as the plot unwinds and then springs together again in the final scenes. The play starts with the masseuse in her empty massage room (or is she?) caught up in her own internal world; she exits and two sections of the back wall come to life in living, breathing human shape. The wall’s two human spirits - sometimes playfully, sometimes maliciously, sometimes almost getting caught - start to interact with the real world of the masseuse and her three clients over the next eighty-five minutes of this unusual production.
Occasionally there are so many interacting elements going on in the scrip that the clarity of the plot is lost; as one of the characters says “Less is more”. The trick is to keep ahead of the audience and keep them guessing right up to the revelation of the final twist.
Director, Lisa Waite has done a fine job in separating the diverse elements in the writing and bringing them to life in this production. She would make an excellent peak hour traffic controller! The drama, the comedy, the choreographic use of props, the slow build to the final denouement is confidently handled. The run will tighten up one or two lacklustre moments that were evident on opening night.
The six actors, in their diverse roles, cover a lot of emotional and physical ground: Robyn Gough as Joey, the masseuse struggling to control her inner feeling until she can no longer contain herself. Lotte Crawford and Andrew Crupi as the two see all, tell all, wall entities. Chris Roberts as James, the big sobbing, woosy central character caught up in the middle of sexing two of Joey’s clients. Katie O’Reilly as Ruby the loveable dipsy woman who finds herself caught up in the spider web of James’s deception and Lucy Slattery as the sexy Sarah who would be a handful for any man. But it is Andrew Crupi and Lotte Crawford as the two wall spirits who steal the show and keep the momentum up and running with their vocal patter and physical agility in every scene.
The design by Tammy Boden is simple and practical. The set admirably captures the generic essence of a massage room; massage bed, associated paraphernalia neat towels, incense sticks etc. The costumes clearly define the characters and the matching wallpaper costumes of the living wall spirits are a hoot (right down to purple jiffies which match the purple floor of the room).
Stephen Dean’s lighting design is functional white light that totally supports the action and defines a number of neat cameo scenes at the side and front of the stage. The uncredited sound design on the whole works well, but is a bit too intrusive at the times when silence would have been more dynamic. There were many small gems, for example the intrusion of mobile phones sounds which worked spectacularly in the final stages of the production.
This perverse twist on therapy as a relaxing tool in the release of harmony and the juxtaposition of comedic fun, pathos, and serious social undertones laid out for the audience’s entertainment makes for an interesting night at the theatre - except for the masseuse, who has yet to face her internal demons, and the walls who are in for their own drastic makeover.
When: 1 to 10 November
Where: Bakehouse Theatre