THE CURING ROOM
by David Ian Lee.
Pleasance Theatre Carpenters’ Mews North Road N7 9EF To 9 November 2014.
Tue-Sun 7.30pm & 10pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7609 1800.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 October.
Extreme human situation handled with moderate skill.
Great disturbances among nations affect small groups of people, like the soldiers in David Ian Lee’s The Curing Room, abandoned in a Polish fortress as the Nazis retreat during the last stages of World War II. Without food or clothing, and only so much shelter as constitutes their confinement, basic survival become increasingly urgent.
Lee’s military characters come from East European nations and include representation from the region’s Jewish population. But they speak less of nationalism than order and military rank. While the senior officer, Captain Victor Nikolov, tries to evade decisions, his subordinate Drossov becomes insubordinate, demanding order, and orders.
There’s theatrical irony in the repeated attempts to play rational decision-making against the luck of the draw, for all external signs of hierarchy have been removed with the men’s uniform. There’s no attempt to compromise with the characters’ nakedness from end to end of the action. It’s a fact of life for them, and becomes so for the audience, showing there are more basic needs – if leaving some surprise at the moderate temperatures in the southern Polish climate.
Unfortunately, what Stripped-Down Productions reveal is the plays’ naked stereotypes as the increasing urgency for food and the fact the men themselves are its only source leads towards the inevitability of selecting several of their number for death and consumption as raw meat.
Philip Lindley’s bare, stony courtyard setting gradually becomes littered with human remains. But the script, and Joao de Sousa’s production tend to reduce this matter – taken from that impeccable intellectual source-book, George Steiner’s The Death of Tragedy and handled dramatically with greater penetration in Barry Collins’ solo script Judgement, in which Colin Blakely, years ago at the ICA Theatre, gave a gruelling account of events through a survivor’s defence-speech.
Since then the story of the Andes plane-crash survivors has brought a similar situation to western awareness, in novel and film form, with Piers Paul Read’s Alive!.
This dramatic account has moments of conflict between individuals but tends too often to manufacture crises rather than let them emerge through character development, something the acting here only makes more apparent.
Captain Victor Nikolov: Rupert Elmes.
Senior-Lieutenant Sasha Ehrenberg: Harvey Robinson.
Lieutenant Vasili Kozlov: Marion Solomon.
Junior-Lieutenant Leonid Drossov: Will Bowden.
Private Nils Sukeruk: John Hoye.
Private Georgi Poleko: Matt Houston.
Private Yura Yegorov: Thomas Holloway.
Director: Joao de Sousa.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: David Howe.
Sound/Composer: Angus MacRae.
Fight director: Bret Yount.