Written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, Communicating Doors is a fast, funny and entertaining ride that is part-farce and part-Hitchcockian time travel thriller. At its heart are two winning performances that go a long way to paper over any cracks in the occasionally baffling plot.
The story begins in the year 2030 with the arrival of brassy call-girl, Poupée (“it’s French for ‘doll’”), at the hotel suite of wealthy Reece Wells. But instead of plying her usual trade, is instead asked to witness Wells’ signature on a confession to a series of crimes, including the truth about the ‘accidental’ deaths of his two wives. However, after Poopay encounters Wells’ shady business partner, Julian, she is forced to flee and winds up going through the connecting door to the next room. When she emerges, she finds herself back in the same suite, only it is now 2010 and she has arrived on the night that Wells’ second wife, Ruella, is supposed to die. Whew!
From there it’s a rollercoaster ride of action interspersed with sufficient recounting of events to various characters, as Wells’ first wife and the hotel’s hapless security manager get drawn into the story. Along the way there are more than a few nods to the ‘Master of Suspense’ and his most famous film, with passing references to a long-departed mother, the perils of taking a shower and a score by John Pattison of which Bernard Herrmann himself would have been proud.
All of this is held together by the cast of six, anchored by Laura Doddington as Poupée/Phoebe and Liza Goddard as Ruella. Both women are effortlessly funny and charismatic as they form an unlikely but believable friendship, with the ‘take charge’ Ruella attempting to matter-of-factly prevent her own death while a baffled Ms Poupée tries to figure out what on earth is going on. They are more than ably supported by the rest of the cast, particularly Jamie Kenna as Harold, the hotel’s security manager.
The play is being staged in the Stephen Joseph’s Round Theatre, meaning that the audience gets a 360 degree view of the hotel suite (cleverly designed by Michael Holt) and the cast has the advantage of multiple entry and exit routes, which are used to full effect by Ayckbourn. Overall the play has an underlying energy that rarely flags during its running time of 135 minutes (not including the 20-minute interval).
If there is a criticism, it’s that things do get a little confusing in the second act when an attempt is made to tie all the threads of the story together. But logic is not something that is high on the agenda here, with not even an attempt made to explain the science behind the time travel. But none of this really matters as the play rattles humorously along to a conclusion that is a little surprising and also a little touching. All in all, Doors gives anyone willing to suspend their belief a great night out in the company of a talented
and energetic team of players under the control of another ‘master’ in Alan Ayckbourn.