The Blue Room

Manchester School of Theatre (MMU) bring David Hare’s The Blue Room to HOME.  Based on La Ronde, and similar in structure to the excellent Caresses (also from MST as part of 2016 ¡Viva! Festival), the play follows a Möbius-strip-like sequence of ten sexual encounters, each of two actors, one of whom continues into another liaison in the following scene.  It’s an ambitious play for the first of the season.

I very much rate what MST do, and I’m very happy that they are able to perform at HOME to give greater exposure to their performances; it will be sad to lose them when the Capitol Theatre has been redeveloped.  The annual process of renewal is fascinating to watch and of course there would be no point in doing the year if the first performance were as good as the last.

For whilst this is a very watchable performance, it does have flaws.  One of the characters says that ‘we’re either moving closer together or moving further apart’, and yet in too many of the scenes the feeling is more static.  The dialogue is fairly simple and in each scene it is the power balance that drives the drama, the emotional distance ebbing and flowing between each character.  But all too often the actors don’t develop the full complexity of the relationships.  In some ways I wish this had been the final performance of the year; this is deceptively complex play.

On entering, the set is completely blue, six doors, a raised platform.  I liked this very simple, stylish picture.  Throughout the play, scene changes create a variety of beds, but the vibrancy of the sets is somewhat out of line with the clinical feel of the play.  The scene changes are too long, and the blackouts for the sex scenes would be better as shorter snap changes to allow repositioning.  As always with MST productions, sound and lights are effective.

Overall this is a production that shows great promise.  There is a wonderful strength in depth of this cast that suggests that subsequent productions will be excellent.  I loved the power balance created by Yasmin Mwanza as ‘the Actress’, which is what this play needed.  A production that is perhaps overlong, has some flaws, but is well worth seeing.

photo credit:  Sophie Giddens

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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