Writer: Moira Buffini
Director: Peter Scott
Everyone thinks their families are normal, relatively speaking. Sometimes the only way to see things clearly is to see it through the eyes of someone else. The arrival of a doctor into the lives of the Blavatsky family shake up the world they have always known; A world contained entirely in a small, sparsely decorated flat at the top of a tower, with only each other for company, looking down on the rest of humanity – ‘the crushed’.
The small intimate space is perfect for the fly-on-the-wall intrusion into this private family’s life. The set consists simply of a large white structure with doorways interspersed between bookshelves. The action occurs in the living area, which starts off with empty shelves and a flat devoid of furniture, bar a small old-fashioned TV in the corner, but slowly gains more objects as the world outside begins to leak in.
The characters that inhabit this space are complex and well-rounded but certainly not well-adjusted. Household patriarch and former architect, Hector Blavatsky, played by Tony Leader, has been blind for a few years but claims to see angels. There are frequent insinuations of him believing himself to be the embodiment of God.
The brother, Roland (Tom Hurley) is vernacularly verbose, obsessive and frenetic and spends his days working on his ‘Theory of the Universe’. Sister, Ingrid (Hannah Lloyd) is a nurturing type who cares for their ailing father and lovingly tends a rooftop garden – a caged free-spirit with a fear of being free.
At first glance, it seems that eldest sister Audrey, played by Emma MacNab, may be the “normal” one, unscathed by her strange living conditions – she leaves the flat and has a job. As the play progresses she is revealed as manipulative and controlling and likes keeping the others contained and dependent – her father’s daughter.
The nature of their circumstances means all characters are difficult to relate to – even the logical, pragmatic but overly stuffy, “cardboard cut-out” personality of Doctor Dunn (Dean Rehman). We can at least understand their motives through the skilful acting of the cast. They have clearly invested a lot of time in getting to know their characters and portray them with insight and truth to the writing.
With a dark and serious concept, such as this, there is a danger of the material becoming incredibly heavy. This isn’t the case for ‘Blavatsky’s Tower’, there is a lightness to this production that doesn’t detract from the mood, instead enhances it. The humour dances with the darkness creating comedic moments that remain inherently uncomfortable. This mixture works perfectly for the tone of the show.
A small space, containing big issues – this play will have you peeking through the proverbial keyhole, drawn into the strange and unusual behaviour of these characters, desperate to know more about their story.
Runs until 12 May 2016 | Image:Kirsten Mcternan