[2014082] Wendy House

[2014082] Wendy House

Pixel Theatre @ Salad Days Inc.

10:00pm, Tue 4 Mar 2014

Wendy House starts building its world while we waited outside Salad Days: we’re presented with a flyer that details a set of Law Reforms instigated “[i]n response to recent violence”. The mandatory 7pm-to-7am curfew, and the monitoring of all communications, caught my eye… and thoughts inspired by those words were simmering in my mind when we were permitted entry into the performance space.

The room is trashed. The windows are covered, there’s newspaper strewn everywhere, and there’s a torn sofa, foam rotten and oily, along one wall; audience seating is on crates and broken chairs and tatty cushions. On one side of the room, waiting for the audience to quietly file in, is a young man teenager, pensive and nervous and nail-biting; on the other, a similarly aged girl, oblivious to the mood around her, happily kicking her legs as she sat, probably singing softly and sweetly to herself. With the audience nervously seated around the edge of the room – I was “lucky” enough to get a spot on the sticky sofa – the guy started checking the room, roughly searching for… something.

The girl (Carla, seventeen years young and far more naïve than that due to her privileged upbringing) and the guy (Sebastian, punkish and angry, his perpetual distrust seemingly a product of his tougher youth under a struggling single mum) constantly bicker as he performs his check, but the animosity is terribly one-sided; Sebastian’s anger is fuelled by the Law Reforms and, as they hide out in this house together to escape the curfew, his anti-authority ranting is of little interest to Carla, who continues to believe that everything will Just Work Out.

Suddenly Sebastian finds what he was looking for (but hoping not to find): tomboy Peter (Peta?) is discovered hiding at the back of the room, and the yelling and accusations and mistrust amps up between the two (as Carla blissfully waits). A thump at the door startles them; after much pleading, the trio allow another two country boys a place to hide from the curfew. Will and Luke – brothers-in-law through Will’s now-dead sister – are easily the most likeable characters (and strongest actors) in this Wendy house; Luke’s morose wallowing over his dead wife was the most believable grounding of the quintet.

With five people in the room, all struggling to deal with the invisible dystopian pressure outside their ramshackle hide-hole, things get pretty… well, shouty. There’s a few occasions where two groups of characters – with parties standing in opposite corners of the room – will be having concurrent conversations, with the resultant barrage of words creating a confusing mess. And that works against Wendy House, because much of the dialogue that forms the bulk of the play seems heavily stereotyped and predictable; it’d probably feel revolutionary if I was a teenager, but I’m very far from that.

But if there’s one thing that the cast of Wendy House do well, it’s generate tension: there’s many instances of potent stares across the room, glowering suspicion, festering resentment. But the dialogue feels too obvious, too forced, and rarely provides any real insight into the characters; too much is left to the imagination. And whilst my imagination is great when it comes to extrapolating the tension, it’s not so great at creating drama and plot.

As a result, I left Wendy House feeling… well, a little unfulfilled. Like I’d been shown a glimpse of an interesting dystopian future, full of flawed characters… but those characters were left to fend for themselves with little clear direction. It’s a shame, really, because there’s clearly been some work done on developing this unsettling future.

But the worst Wendy House memory came much later in the evening. After some… people problems following the show, I was leaving the Fringe Club to head home when I passed one of the cast members. She recognised me(!), and asked me what I’d thought; I was in quite an angry state of mind when I asked her, “Honestly?” She had nodded with a smile on her face… a smile which quickly disappeared when I unloaded a far less tempered (and entirely unfiltered) opinion unto her before catching myself. I felt absolutely awful after that, so… well, if you ever read this, I’m really truly sorry :{

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