No Exit?

August 21, 2015 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩   Closed in

theSpace @ Venue 45 (Venue 45): Mon 17 – Sat 29 August 2015

M and E Theatre’s No Exit? is a strangely diffuse production, with plenty of energy but not much cohesion.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos famously features three people who have ended up together after death, presided over by a mysterious valet. It is not much of a spoiler to reveal that they appear to be in Hell – but what is the nature of their torture? (Anyone who knows the play’s most famous line will be aware of the answer).

Publicity image

Publicity image

The French title is sometimes rendered as In Camera, which at least is the legal equivalent of the original; more often it is called No Exit, but not usually with the question mark given here.

Perhaps this new punctuation is a reflection of a desire to put more mystery into a text that, while undoubtedly influential – on Beckett for a start – can feel cold.

However, this results in a collection of performances that, while more than acceptable in themselves, seem to be working against each other.

Magnus Sinding’s icy valet is no more supercilious or enigmatic than your average hotel employee, while Sean Higgs’s Garcin is a larger-than-life figure, spluttering and stuttering, not always coherently. Michelle van Rensburg’s hugely arch, scarily kittenish blonde primadonna Estelle does not seem to belong on the same stage as Melissa Woodside’s downbeat portrayal of Inez, the woman who worships her.

alienated and uneasy

If the intention is to make the audience feel alienated and uneasy, then it certainly works, but the overall effect is to fracture the narrative. Van Rensburg’s direction seems to be striving for a nightmarish, claustrophobic feel, but instead we get a lot of sound and fury that does not seem to signify a great deal.

There is considerable dramatic mileage in the text, and considerable philosophical interest too, although the characters do tend towards the stereotypical. Perhaps the decision to have Estelle constantly twirling a feather boa or to dress the lesbian Inez in dungarees was to point up these stereotypes, but once again the effect is oddly disassociating.

There is considerable energy in the production, and it is interesting to see a dramatist who was once a staple of the Fringe but has fallen from favour. It will take more than this to bring him back, however.

Running time 50 minutes
theSpace @ Venue 45 (Venue 45), 63 Jeffrey St, EH1 1DH
Monday 17 – Saturday 29 August 2015
Daily (not Sun) at 9.05 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/no-exit

ENDS

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