PPP: He Who Opens the Door

Oct 5 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Spirited

Traverse: Tue 4 – Sat 8 Oct 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson.

Current circumstances give He Who Opens The Door by Nadia Nezhdana, the latest Play, Pie and a Pint from Oran Mor in association with Aberdeen Performing Arts at the Traverse, a chilling topicality.

Under the circumstances, it is difficult to assess dispassionately a play from a Ukrainian writer, featuring (at least in passing) a possible foreign invasion. The script was obviously written before recent events, but the problem of being stuck between Russia and the West is ever-present.

Yolanda Mitchell

Mortuary worker Vera is shocked to find Vika – one of her supposed corpses – walking around. Are they both alive or are they both dead? And what is going on outside, with the doors suddenly locked and the phones not working?

The situation at first appears otherworldly, with absurdist notes, but these are not always sustained effectively. Rather than the Beckett it apparently strives to emulate, it rather resembles Pinter in that this could easily be a much more straightforward drama in which an important detail has been withheld from the characters. In this case, that drama is a dark comedy whose jokes do not always land effectively.

There is also probably too much going on, as the pair cycle through various theories as to the situation; despite its brevity the piece is in danger of spreading itself too thin.


As it develops, however, there is considerably more urgency, particularly when confronting head on dangers specifically faced by women. This is not only true of the immediate perils of a war zone, but also applies to everyday life, as the misogyny of church and state becomes institutionalised and internalised.

Louise Stewart

There is a real sprightliness to Becky Hope-Palmer’s direction. Accomplished comedian Louise Stewart gives the wrung-out medic Vida a winningly febrile air. Yolanda Mitchell’s Vika, at first unsure if she is dead drunk or just dead, is a remarkably assured performance for someone making their professional stage debut.

sparky dialogue

She is aided by the sparky dialogue; the translation by John Farndon (with Anatole Bilenko) gives the Ukrainian setting a decidedly Scottish edge.

Gemma Patchett and Jonny Scott’s set design is thoroughly effective. The problems of accurately representing an attempted escape from a bunker when neither the doors nor the wall look particularly sturdy are (just about) overcome.

An understandable desire to keep despair at bay does mean that neither the misfiring comedy nor the underpowered existentialism of the script ultimately convince. There is certainly a moral imperative on display, however, backed up by dynamic performances.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED. Phone booking: 0131 228 1404
Tuesdsay 4 – Saturday 8 Octover 2022
Lunchtimes: 1pm (Traverse 2).
Tickets and details: Book here.

Louise Stewart and Yolanda Mitchell.


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