DramaReviewSouth West

Veronica’s Room – Cygnet Theatre, Exeter

Writer: Ira Levin
Director: Adam Morley
Reviewer: Jodie Russell

Like a Russian Matryoshka doll,Veronica’s Room is a play within a play within a play, each layerrevealing some of humanity’s darkest and most gruesome fetishes. The wolves, once they shed the sheep’s clothing, have yet more fearsome beasts lurking beneath. Everyone is suspect – the accents too, imitating the Americans and Irish, are a little suspect at times but this adds to the duality of the characters.

tell-us-block_editedThe audience is constantly and effectively thrown into doubt of who really is mad here; Claire Bibby and Talitha Willsea are both shockingly manic in the delivery of their dialogue. Paul Cleveland and Ed Allenby, with their individual characters, work well simultaneously repelling us and drawing us further in. Although, they are all the more frightening because they are men we know exist in our world.

The staging is a simple and child-like bedroom, but with the addition of bars on the window, helping to create effectively an unsettling atmosphere that is slightly off-kilter so, when the lights flicker down (a deliberate effect or not, it adds greatly to the suspense), the story is already in motion. Little else is needed to capture our attention; it is the sheer puzzle of the play that keeps its audience gripped and the interval is agonising in making us wait for the resolution of the play. But in this play’s twisted style, this pain is almost enjoyable when we reach the conclusion and the conspiracies finally came to light.

Not much longer than an hour, Veronica’s Room is a surprisingly compact piece of drama with all of the layers tied up neatly by the end. You may leave a little disturbed by its dark themes but satisfied, as well as you can be, that all the secrets have been revealed. Director Adam Morley has successfully created here a monster that the audience unwittingly takes a piece with them once they leave the theatre. Events before and after the play, as well as the backstories of the characters, we are able to piece together from the scenes within the scenes of the multi-layered drama because of the clever way it hangs together.

It may be argued that the morbidity is too extreme and the lunacy slightly on the absurd side but the tropes Veronica’s Room plays on are present enough in our knowledge of evil deeds that go on in the world that it doesn’t feel too far from reality. To be able to cope with it, the audience has to be somewhat removed; leaving us to puzzle out the scenario does this to a small extent with one or two chimes of humour here and there. But the nature of the events is gruelling so it is not a play for everyone. Its aim is to shock, and it does so well.

Runs until 28 October 2016 | Image:Kellie Colby

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