The Blue Room [FringeTIX]
5pound Theatre @ Urban Spaceman Vintage
9:00pm, Thu 14 Feb 2013
I’m early, and the chap manning the door informs me – and the gathering throng of people (including a healthy brace of Media badges) – that the cast are still setting up within Urban Spaceman. I’m the only person who hasn’t already bought a ticket, and as names are gathered for ticket verification I sense a vague feeling of concern; I ask how big the performance space is, and my question is returned with a smile: “We’ll find out.”
As we mill about outside, I spot Her appearance in the front window of the shop, and wonder why everyone else is ignoring Her; She sat on the windowsill of the store, luscious and lascivious underneath a bright-blue wig. She sees me looking at her, and furtively looks away; I smile. She looks back, points at me, then gestures to the empty space next to Her – on the windowsill, inside the shop. I widen my smile; she breathes on the window and draws a little love-heart.
It is, after all, Valentine’s Day.
I laugh; She points at the empty space again and slowly curls her finger, beckoning me closer. She flashes all ten of her fingers once, twice, five times, and nods to the space again. I turn away momentarily in consideration, then return to Her gaze… I flash my ten fingers four times. She shakes her head, feigns insult, and starts trying to catch the gaze of someone else; when our eyes meet again, I raise the offer to forty-five. I am still snubbed.
I’ve always been shit at bartering.
We’re eventually allowed entry into Urban Spaceman and take our seats; there’s only one or two spaces left unoccupied. I opt for a front row seat at the far right, directly in front of the male performer leaning against a column and smoking nervously; the girl in the blue wig continues prowling in the window sill. Eventually She slinks into the space in front of us, which is dominated by a bed; hiding behind another pillar, she waits for Him to walk past, and lures Him to Her. Their flirting is tense, and feels constrained; the resulting copulation is rushed.
We’re then instructed to leave our seats and are cajoled into surrounding a doorway at the back of the store, where the next scene plays out: He is the same character, but She – after a quick costume change – is now a coy au pair, and the courtship this time is far more playful, but unfortunately the background music occasionally drowned out the softer dialogue. The next scene keeps the au pair, but He is now a privileged student from a wealthy household; His attempts to woo Her are clumsy, and Her eyes glisten with thoughts of another.
The Blue Room continues in this vein for a total of ten scenes, featuring five male and five female characters; each character features in two consecutive scenes, with the blue-haired Irene bookending the play. Each scene is a different tone, a different interaction… a different way of looking at courtship, at sex. And make no mistake, The Blue Room is very much about sex – characters are always hopping in and out of bed, and at times the nudity is so frequent that you wonder whether the previous costume change was justified.
He (Zak Zavod) was thoroughly engaging, from his pensive Cab Driver to the clumsy Student to the incredulous playwright, and it’s only his role as the Aristocrat Malcolm that has any real flaw, as his accent felt a little ropey at times. And whilst I admit that I may have been swayed by our pre-show dalliance through the window, She (Kaitlyn Clare) was nothing less than phenomenal in her roles: the gorgeous accents of the au pair and the Model, the fractured desires of the Married Woman, the sheer power of the Actress, and the slightest hint of desperate need behind the blue-haired Girl… it really was an incredible series of performances.
Direction, too, was near faultless – save the aforementioned issue with sound drowning out text in the second scene. The various scenes away from our seats were really well done; peeking through the curtain to the Actress’ dressing room was a voyeuristic delight, and the management of the final scene guarantees a standing ovation for the cast.
It’s only after the performance that I do some digging into The Blue Room and discover its origins and legacy, from snide treatise of Austrian decadence through to Nicole Kidman’s much-talked-about nude scenettes. And, as I mentioned before, there’s plenty of nudity in this production; in fact, I had the… – lucky? uncomfortable? – experience of having both actors performing full-frontal naked soliloquies directly in front of me, almost at arm’s length. But despite the quirky pre-show interaction and the delight/intimidation of my proximity to the performers, The Blue Room will stand out in my mind as being a fantastic production of a (surprisingly!) thoughtful play… and must certainly rank as one of this Fringe’s highlights.