Director: Michael Woodhall and Alice Dale
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Lincoln-based theatre company Stand By bring their 2017 Edinburgh Fringe show to Manchester as part of HOME’s Incoming Festival, a programme of work by emerging theatre companies from across the UK.
The Room At The Top Of The House is a short piece of physical theatre that explores how a family copes with teenage depression. The show could actually be about mental health, drugs or dementia – or anything that takes the person away from their loved ones while having them right there in the room – or in Josh’s case, locked away in his at the top of the house. Josh and his sister have spent happier times planning their escapes off around the world, but as much as he wants to join her in her travels, he finds himself locked inside his own head, unable to communicate with his increasingly frustrated family.
The cast of four all have excellent physical skills, especially the performer playing Josh (no cast list was available), whose contorted movements reflect his inner pain. The choreography is tight, if a little repetitive. The company successfully create, through the movement, a strong sense of a tight-knit family, pushed to their limits by something they just can’t understand. You feel for every single one of them as they try to make sense of it all.
The piece has some great visual and physical moments, a good use of minimal lighting – especially those units that are hand held and operated by the cast – and simple, effective design, but the spoken narrative is uninspiring and at times really quite clunky, adding very little. Although the cast say a lot, we really have no sense of the trigger for Josh’s mental state, or what, ultimately, resolves it. It’s a story about a big subject, but with little substance.
Reviewed on 4 July 2018 | Image: Contributed