Theatre review: Harold Pinter’s The Room @ Joshua Brooks, Manchester

Harold Pinter was a writer all about the absurdist themes.

Many of his works consisted of breathtakingly complex dialogue jumbled together to form a draught outline of a story arc, and allow audiences to roll around in it and make of it what they wish.

Applying the perspective of an Alzheimer’s patient is a bold move, and something that proves to be incredibly unique, dark and intense experience.

Little is truly known about the full nature of the play’s story, it is intentionally left to the audience to carve their own opinion of what plays out.

For what facts are presented, the play follows Rose, a woman who has set herself up in her own room with her husband Bert, blocking out the world that surrounds her, yet a violent and uneasy past begins to bleed through, as a series of unwanted guests enter her room.

When the lights come on and the play finishes, there will be a burning series of questions that you’ll want to ask. The difficult thing is, you’re not quite sure what they are.

The play requires a series amount of post-production processing, and only when you consider multiple explanations and viewpoints do you begin to appreciate its beauty.

What the crew at JustTalk Theatre have done rather wonderfully is take the single idea that Rose is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and in doing that, provide an entirely new way of looking at one of Pinter’s oldest works.

It has the essence of reading a novel all the way through thinking you know exactly what’s going on, and having one line at the end completely spinning your perspective.

Except that this will be backwards for anyone familiar with the play, as they will go in thinking, by now, they know what to expect from it.

But when they deduce that the central angle is an Alzheimer’s sufferer, practically a whole new play is born.

The play has excellent performances from its small cast with Lucy Ross-Elliott, playing Rose, the central character, is very strong indeed.

Starting off as a seemingly innocent and sweet elderly lady, but gradually channelling a woman who is suffering from repressed memories of a much darker past, and acts out this downward spiral with authenticity and professionalism.

Alongside her is her husband Bert, played by Ethan Martin. Considering that Bert has no dialogue at all in the first half of the play, it is quite surprising how intense, and at some points menacing, a man sitting at a desk becoming visibly more agitated can be.

It is not a play that’s going to appeal to all audiences – some will crave logical answers and a firm plot from cause to effect.

But The Room marks a point in theatre where less is more, and relying on audience interpretation can prove to be the most interesting visits to a local theatre.

The Room is playing at the Joshua Brooks Theatre on September 28, 29 and 30. Tickets are available here: http://www.justtalktheatre.co.uk/upcoming

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