The Door

Rating ****
Reviewed by Alex Foott

Park Theatre, London
Running until 1st December 2013

There is a flourishing trend among budding playwrights of combining social satire with a sensitive approach to the individual mind. And in a society that promotes unrealistic pictures of success, our minds are continually burdened with the stress to compete. We have all, from time to time, crumbled beneath the pressure and experienced the odd bout of sleep deprivation yet there are the unlucky few who endure chronic insomnia. Cherise Cross’ latest work delves into the life of one such sufferer and portrays his continuing discordance with society. By exposing the relentless monotony of everyday life, she demonstrates how we are in fact being driven insane by our own aspirations and our innate desire to reach the top of the heap.

John is an insomniac. Confused, incoherent and increasingly foul-tempered, he is referred to a group counselling session, having tried various other means of treatment. Initially his embarrassment and shame prevent him from discussing the disorder with the only too enthusiastic group yet when session leader Lisa tricks him into sharing some of his life, he slowly lets down his guard. The other attendees, Tim and Karen, enjoy the meetings and invite John to wallow in life’s miseries. As both the sessions and the insomnia continue, John struggles to maintain a firm grasp on reality and we are sucked into his somewhat sporadic consciousness.

The cast of five provide wonderful insight into this really rather unnerving subject, artfully balancing a sense of comfort and peace with moments of hysteria. Adele Keating as Lisa is truly mesmerising. She delicately carries the pervading tone of uncertainty and her soft voice and gentle movements are perfectly juxtaposed with her brief periods of skittish and evasive behaviour. Both James Naylor and Stephanie Lodge add a merciful touch of humour to this otherwise disturbing piece, subtly highlighting each of the characters’ pitiful situations, while Philip Nightingale and Robert Bradley, as John and his shadow-clad tormentor, create heightened tension that is never fully resolved.

The Door is a clever deconstruction of humanity’s increasing dismissal of society, exposing our warped affection for the digital replacement we now prefer. By unhinging the most rational of the characters, Cross forces her audience to question how our lifestyles are in fact damaging to both our psyche and our health. A forceful social statement that shatters our obsession with overachieving, this piece demonstrates that our dreams of living a perfect life result often in our own destruction.

8fold Theatre Company
Written by Cherise Cross
Directed by Amy Draper
Performance date – Thursday 14th November 2013