Guest blogger Matt Badham (http://somethoughtsoncomics.blogspot.co.uk/) tackles new Fringe play The Waiting Room.
An interrupted journey for six passengers who await transfer on to their homes after a train derailment. They all have their own good reasons to want a swift departure but complications soon arise. They disagree with each other and realise that there is no quick solution to the problem. Stuck in a remote location, the Swedish attendant has to deal with their issues and tries to resolve the situation. He listens to their disputes and the confessions of those that need to get away. How will he deliver a solution?
Last night I offered to write Matt Charlton of the Fiction Stroker blog a guest review of The Waiting Room. This play is currently being staged at The Three Minute Theatre by Everyday Productions. It’s an offer I’m regretting, because I didn’t enjoy the piece but I don’t want to put the boot in too much. I like the fact that Manchester has a thriving fringe theatre scene and want to support the actors, directors, producers and writers who are involved with it. Having said that, I’m not going to pretend that what I saw last night was anything other than a bad piece of theatre. (I just hope I don’t get chinned next time I’m propping up the bar after a show at The Three Minute Theatre.)
The Waiting Room features six characters stranded in the mysterious ‘waiting room’ of the title after a train derailment. There’s also an attendant, who is very cagey about where they are and how long they will have to wait. Finally, there’s a girl in ‘white face’, whose occasional appearances are, I think, supposed to be spooky. (And if you haven’t guessed the story’s big twist by now, you will within about 60 seconds of sitting down to watch the show.)
I suspect the fundamental problem with The Waiting Room is with Philip Lightfoot, who seems to have bitten off more than he can chew. He wrote and directed this piece, and takes a prominent place in it. His performance is (presumably purposefully) languid, as are the script and his direction. There’s very little drama in this drama.
Having said that, lots seems to happen to the characters off-stage when they disappear to go to the toilet or explore the surrounding locale, which is described as a remote area of the countryside. I lost count of the amount of times a character remarked that it was ‘kicking off’ offstage. “Wouldn’t it be better,” I found myself thinking, “if it was all kicking off onstage?”
Unfortunately, an underwritten and seemingly under-developed script hampered those bits of action that did make it onstage (such as when the character of Luca turned on his wife Sophie and tried to strangle her). This was mainly because the characters lacked any sense of psychological truth and insight, and I think this showed in performances that were mostly weak. I can’t blame the actors though (Matt, who was with me, commented that Amir Rahimzadeh had been good in another fringe play he’d seen). As far as I could see, they were doing the best they could with lack-lustre material.
However, three actors did manage to rise above the writing somewhat. Firstly, there was Paul Bell and Christine Dalby, who gave powerful performances as man and wife, trapped together in a very unhappy marriage. I would, in particular, like to see Paul perform again. I think with the right material, he could soar. Tony Charnock made a valiant effort to make the most of his comedic role, but was ultimately brought down by the fact that most of his lines weren’t funny.
Having said all this, it seems slightly unfair to pass judgement on a theatre company that is working with such an under-cooked story. This production is a reminder that the beating heart of most good theatre is solid writing. Next time Everyday Productions take a script into production, I recommend re-drafting it a few more times first.