Theatre Review: The Blue Room

Adapted from a German play about the spread of syphilis through society, David Hare’s The Blue Room provides an insightful commentary on modern sexual relationships and the roles of class and power. A cycle of ten sexual encounters, with one character from each encounter appearing in the next, The Blue Room traverses aristocracy and the working class, tracing a sexual chain between them.

Performed by Melbourne-based theatre company 5pound Theatre, The Blue Room was staged in their usual home, Richmond’s The Owl and the Pussycat Theatre. This eclectic and cosy venue is perfect for such an intimate play. There are, however, some quirks. The street entrance opens directly onto the stage, and one must walk through the theatre itself to get to the small bar and box office behind it. This arrangement does require punctuality on the part of the theatregoer; a sign placed outside the door at show time says “Performance in progress. No late entry. Sorry.”

The distinctive venue was neatly woven into the play’s set design, from the subtle lighting of the theatre’s warm brick walls to the ending’s bold embrace of the bright Richmond street. It’s these small details that gave this particular production a solid sense of place. The simple set was used to great effect. The actors display impressive stamina in moving various block objects around, all while maintaining the sense of intimacy essential for the play’s success.

The acting was solid, and the energy between the two-person cast was strong and well-maintained over an exhausting two hours and fifteen minutes. Zak Zavod brought a masculine energy to his roles, though some of the characters blurred together: there was little to differentiate the student, the politician and the playwright bar their clothes. These shortcomings were, to a large degree, mitigated by his magnificent penis, which brought a girthy realness to several scenes in the play. Kaitlyn Clare, the female lead, had no such problems. Clare brought ten distinctive characters to life on the stage, her impressive array of accents and command of normally unconscious body movements giving each character a strong identity.

5pound Theatre ably did justice to Hare’s play. The performance leveraged potential flaws, like the small and rudimentary stage, to actually enhance the intimacy so needed for the power of The Blue Room to be clear.

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Michael Ciesielski

The author Michael Ciesielski

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