CLOSET LAND – Bakehouse Theatre

SMA Kryztoff banner Nov 13 100dpiBy Peter Maddern

When the audience is admitted a young woman is at a table blindfolded and bound. As the play commences we find she is very much in a state of confusion; over how long she has been where she is, who is her interrogator and why is she, or her children’s books a person of interest. Is this sweet, frightened girl really a traitor?

Closet Land traces the development of her captivity and the gradual reversal of the roles of the two actors, Melissa Rayner as the girl and Ben Orchard as the contriving, creepy and evilly consumed captor.

Closet Land, the film, was first released in 1991, with Alan Rickman and Madeleine Stowe as the two protagonists in this two person stand-off in some unidentified police station in some unknown police state. The film like the play rests on the ability of the two performers to pull off the intrigue and where the film succeeded, unfortunately, the play, the first time it has been performed in Australia doesn’t.

Rayner does a good job dealing with her character’s fear and innocence and a resistance to want to talk about her book’s characters and meanings. Orchard however seems to struggle to establish the true nature of his character’s persona – is he a creep, a masochist or a madman – for someone in the driving seat, he just never seems to be able to command the situation convincingly. Ultimately, he seems rather miscast.

Being about two players in one room of course limits directorial freedom but the needs for claustrophobia and visual intensity were never much fulfilled by first-time director Olivia Jane Parker. The potential of the use of video from Daniel Vink and Andrew Shanks was also very much under realised.

Closet Land is a tough gig for audience and actors alike. This production sadly finishes up as a bit of stretch for everyone.

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