There is no question about it; The Curing Room is powerful theatre. Powerful, harrowing and more horrifying than any fake dungeon, The Curing Room takes the theme of human survival and pushes it to the very limits. Set in 1944, the play follows seven Soviet soldiers who have been captured by Nazis, stripped and locked in the cellar of a Monastery. There they are left without food or water until their desire to survive leads them to deeply disturbing actions.
David Ian Lee’s script is absolutely gripping and it is a testament to director Joao de Sousa that despite being fully naked throughout the play, after the first 10 minutes the audience stop noticing their bodies and start focusing of the blood running down their chests and hands. I must admit, reading the synopsis I expected to watch the characters spend the majority of the show debating about how they would survive, but instead was confronted with a brutally realistic depiction of human desperation. The bare and empty set gradually fills with blood oozing on the floor as dismembered body parts litter the stage and it is a credit to Philip Lindley’s set design and Lifecast’s prop makers that audible gasps echo throughout the theatre when members of the group are dismembered.
But this isn’t a Halloween gorefest. Laid bare, the ensemble cast radiate fear and bristle with rage as each of them tries to cling to their humanity. As Senior Lieutenant Sasha, Harvey Robinson fills his voice with hope and calm authority as he assumed leadership of the dwindling group. Robinson provides the optimism that contrasts Lieutenant Vasilli, his neighbour who turns out to be a deserter played by Marlon Solomon who brings a doomed Russian pessimism to the role. But truly this is an ensemble piece and each member of the cast should be applauded for their bravery and honest performances.
Some theatre is created to entertain and distract us from the humdrum of everyday life, some to line the pockets of ex-popstar divas trying to cash in for a quick buck. But good drama and quality writing has the ability to make you ask questions of yourself and engage your moral compass. The Curing Room is an absolutely stunning piece of drama that is brilliantly executed and superbly acted. But be warned, you’ll need stiff drink after watching it.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
The Curing Room is playing at the Pleasance Theatre until 9 November 2014