Angela Betzien’s psychological thriller is chillingly brought to life in Audrey Sheffield’s haunting production.
Having won Best New Australian Play at the Sydney Theatre Awards, The Dark Room is making its UK premiere at Theatre503 – a theatre which celebrates new writers and the work that they produce. By showcasing Angela Betzien’s play, Theatre503 has made a powerful point about the importance of work by new writers.
Set in a dismal and isolated motel room, six very different people are joined together by a crime and having to deal with the consequences of this crime. The Dark Room is a very angry and heartfelt play of a story, that sadly as things unfold, is all too believable about society today.
From the very explosive opening scenes, all the way through to the poignant and heartfelt ending, Betzien has created a play which knocks the audience over with its honesty and power. It constantly reminds us all that no length of time can acquit us of guilt if we are in a power of responsibility and fail to look after those who need our help the most.
Directed by Audrey Sheffield, this is a fiery and passionate production that brings in to sharp focus all of the character’s feelings of guilt and shame for not helping the vulnerable Joseph and Grace who were abused that ultimately leads to tragedy. Everything about the play and the production is sharpened particularly given all the revelations that have been emerging in the news recently – showing just how responsible we are for each other’s lives.
But by entwining several stories into one, the play can become a bit tangled up – which can disrupt the flow and pace of the production, leaving the audience waiting for a turning point in which everything is made clear. The production itself can become slightly hysterical in places, with a little too much shouting going on in places, that means the effect of what is being said can be slightly lost.
Yet, despite this it is still a very intense and driven production that really packs a punch. It is a reminder that in situations of abuse – we all have a duty of care to each other to prevent it from happening and can’t rely on others to do it for us.
This is highlighted further by some strong performances – not least from Annabel Smith’s energetic performance as Grace, whose mood swings and distrust of Anni as well as graphic sexual references is as painful as it is mesmerising to watch unfold as her story becomes clear. In contrast, Fiona Skinner as Emma lashes out beautifully in a different way as her guilt begins to get the better of her – the only one who is perhaps honest enough to say she could have done more to help Joseph. Her despair and anger is raw as she begins to suspect what really happened to him.
There is no denying that The Dark Room is a difficult if powerful watch. Sadly though, you leave the theatre remembering that there are many stories perhaps just like Grace and Joseph’s out there and you can’t help but wonder about what is being done to help and support them.
The Dark Room continues to play at Theatre503 until the 2nd December. For more information visit: https://theatre503.com/whats-on/the-dark-room/