Tuesday, 24 May 2005

The Room by Raimondo Cortese, May 24, 2005

The Room by Raimondo Cortese
The Store Room, May 24 to  June 12, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 24, 2005

In The Room by Raimondo Cortese, Greg Ulfan plays a man alone in a claustrophobic room. He struggles to understand the world outside his room and the increasingly confusing world inside his own head.

The script and Ulfan's performance are both disturbing and comical. The man's erratic behaviour and rapid shifts between unrelated topics are clearly the signatures of a fractured mental state.

However, they are often so absurd and sudden that we laugh as we might catch ourselves laughing inappropriately at the antics of a drunk on the street.

The man's predicament and obsessions are both grim and absurd. He awaits the postman, surrounded by scattered sheets of paper he has, perhaps, previously filled with his own scribblings.

He expects a letter or a visit from a mythical "General" whose invitation he will refuse.

He reminisces about times when he did leave his jail-like room and walk the litter strewn streets, drinking in bars, entering shops, compulsively collecting useless objects.

He pines for "The Angel," the woman he lived with and battled with for years.

The play references, to some degree, Samuel Beckett's play, Krapp's Last Tapes: an isolated man contends with his past and himself.

Cortese's writing is poetic and dense and the Man's speech is formalised and colourful rather than conversational.

Ulfan is compelling in the role. His dark, brooding intensity suits this quirky and volatile figure. He plays with the dialogue, using the voice to heighten the fractious and fractured thought patterns of the man.

Ulfan with director, Ben Harkin, developed this version of The Room. In the tiny enclosed space of The Store Room one feels the claustrophobic state of the Man's mind.

The design (Luke Pithar) is sparse and effective, creating with a few boxes, papers and frames a sense of a hollow oppressive space. Almost inaudible and distant sound (Kelly Ryall) adds an eerie quality.

Efterpi Soropos' lighting is dramatic and isolates areas of the stage that, in turn, isolate the man.

Although this is not one of Cortese's major works, it is definitely an interesting exploration of the machinations of mental illness.

By Kate Herbert 

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