Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

An intoxicating drama

The Blue Room

Touring , New Theatre, Cardiff , March-10-03
Sexually charged and bursting with tension, The Blue Room is a thought-provoking and often humorous piece of theatre which demonstrates the complexities of intimate relationships.

The play, adapted by David Hare from Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, follows a chain of interconnected sexual liaisons between five men and five women from different walks of life. From the cab driver who takes advantage of the na´ve prostitute to the unhappily married woman having an affair with a student, it seems everyone has good reason for their indiscretions.

All the parts are played by just two actors – Tracy Shaw and Jason Connery – and although the pair will probably never escape the publicity surrounding their onstage nudity, there’s a lot more to The Blue Room than cheap thrills.

Demonstrating there is life after Coronation Street and dizzy hairdresser Maxine Peacock, Shaw proves her versatility by confidently switching from role to role. She convincingly manages to get into the mindset of all five female characters and is as believable in the younger roles, like the model and the prostitute, as she is in the older ones, such as the married woman. She delivers her lighter lines with an understated perfect comedy timing but is equally adept in the play’s more tender moments.

Unfortunately for Connery, the characters he plays are not as varied as Shaw’s – there seems to be little to distinguish between the politician and the aristocrat, for example, and at times it’s difficult to remember who he is supposed to be. That said he’s very funny as both the young student experiencing a sexual awakening and the self-obsessed playwright with a love of big words.

Although scenery is kept to a minimum, Simon Scullion’s set is so versatile that it can be instantly adapted for all 10 scenes. The way that sofas from one episode fold out so easily to become beds in the next perhaps indicates how interchangeable our lives are – the encounters could be any of ours.

It soon becomes clear that those changing the sets are just as much a part of the play as Shaw and Connery. The scene changes are slick and perfectly choreographed but it is the lingering looks between the stagehands and the way they touch for just that little bit too long which heightens the sexual tension.

The Blue Room is an intoxicating drama which doesn’t cast judgement on its characters. It never quite tells its audience what to think, leaving us free to determine for ourselves the reasoning behind both the sexual encounters we have witnessed and those of our own.

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This review first appeared in Big Issue Cymru and is reproduced here with their permission (and our thanks!)

Reviewed by: Cathryn Scott

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