Friday, 15 April 2011

In The Next Room, Sarah Ruhl, MTC, April 15, 2011

In The Next Room,  MTC
  • Kate Herbert
  • April 15, 2011 12:11PM

IN The Next Room, by Sarah Ruhl, is an insubstantial script screaming for savage editing. 

What saves this production is the cast and director, Pamela Rabe, who make silly dialogue and a repetitive story entertaining.

Let's not be coy. Ruhl's play is based on 19th century doctors who treated women for hysteria by using electric vibrators on their private parts to stimulate the euphemistic ``paroxysms'.

The clinical, repressed Dr Givings (David Roberts) treats the depressed Mrs Daldry (played hilariously by Helen Thomson).

Initially buoyant,  Mrs Givings (Jacqueline McKenzie) becomes curious about the cause of howls emitting from the next room.

The play is a mutant of Ibsen's A Dolls House, with a nave woman who, after years of happy marriage to a straitlaced man, craves love and liberation.

The script never decides on a style. It begins as a Victorian comedy of manners with gorgeous costumes and set. It lurches in ungainly fashion into farce with innumerable entrances and exits and confused relationships. Then comes a pulp romance novel with sighing and weeping, secret liaisons and unrequited lovers. Finally, it tumbles to its unsatisfying end as melodrama.

It is difficult to ascertain Ruhl’s intention apart from making obvious points about repression being bad, humans needing sex, love and communication, and integration of body and mind being essential to mental and physical health.

There are laughs in the first half but scenes repeat themselves and the play needs 60 minutes edited.

 IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY, MTC Sumner Theatre, Southbank, until May 21, 2011

Stars: * * 1/2

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