David Hutchinson’s production for Sell a Door gives us a taut complex psychological thriller, enhanced by the claustrophobic space at this theatre, with its rocking chair perched on a V shaped portion of porch, that puts the audience centre stage with the cast.
This is a play in the Tennessee Williams mould, having strong characters that clash and combine in an incendiary of emotional outpourings, where grief and madness are ever present and the inevitable unpredictability has you on the edge of your seat.
An award winning drama, it explores not only the complex relationship between father and daughter, but between sisters as it explores the themes of love and guilt. Catherine, on the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday is coming to terms with the death of her mathematician father, who has finally succumbed to the mental illness that had taken over his life for the past few years and now she is worried about whether she too has inherited his disease as she appears to be showing the unmistakable symptoms of clinical depression.
One of her father’s former students, Hal, on going through her father’s old notebooks, makes a sensational discovery that he is anxious to broadcast - a proof that mathematicians thought impossible. But there is a twist, for at the end of the first act Catherine declares that it was her that wrote it and thence lies the problem, the burden of proof. Both Hal and Catherine’s older sister, who has arrived to sort things out, doubt that she could possibly have done it.
A number of scenes, from Catherine’s past remembrances, clearly serve to show her father’s mental state and the bond between them.
The cast are uniformly excellent and were this on a larger stage and not a fringe production there would be several nominations for best actor! Rarely have I seen such total immersion, where the timing and intimacy is spot on, where every word, gesture and pause are so credible, so passionate and so powerful. Holly Easterbrook’s Catherine is complex, caring and volatile whilst Amy Burke’s Claire is manipulative, insensitive and a monstrous creation as a control freak. Marcus Taylor’s rants and irrationality as the father portray the frustrations that mental illness can create whilst Dan Cohen’s Hal is an intense, insecure young man afraid to admit to his own insecurities and instincts.
A gripping play and a great production.
- Dave Jordan