Day One Theatre’s No Exit: Theatre Review

“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.”

― Jean-Paul SartreNo Exit

Expectations: 3/5
Reality: 4/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 3/5 – the performance itself was very suitable for those with sensory issues, although the lack of interval may be something to take into account. The venue is inaccessible to wheelchair users; I’ve emailed to ask what their plans are to address this, but am yet to hear back. Will update if they do get back to me!

Upon entering Sheffield Montgomery Theatre (with difficulty because lol, steps), I had no idea what to expect for the next 90 minutes. However, I really enjoyed Day One Theatre Group’s performance of No Exit; a harrowing play by Jean-Paul Satre, first performed in 1944. This kind of piece is quite far out of my usual comfort zone, but under Laurie Nelson’s direction, proved to be engaging and thought-provoking nonetheless. In short, a Valet delivers three seemingly random strangers into a minimalist room located in hell, where they are to spend the rest of their existence. A kind of existentialist Big Brother, if you will. Channel 5, where are you at?

The set and costuming were both appropriate and non-intrusive, and the small cast of just four performers were all committed to their roles. Although brief, Matthew Carroll’s performance as The Valet was captivating and a solid introduction to the piece. Throughout the rest of the performance, it was so enjoyable to have three talented and committed actors to watch. Not only were their individual parts strong and convincing, their relationships between each other had clearly been thought about in depth, and added an extra dynamic to the piece.

John Paul Kubon as Garcin gave a particularly notable performance, with the anguish radiating off him really drawing the audience in. Kate Spivey as Estelle added a comedic portrayal of an ultimately disturbing character, and I found that her parts really helped me to remain engaged throughout the performance. This contrasted nicely with Jade Strain’s role of Inez, delivered with certainty and an air of authority which really captured Inez’s underlying wit and insight into the nature of the other characters.

Above all, this performance appeared to be successful in encouraging audiences to think about and question their own definition of what hell is. As referred to in the play, is hell really the physical pain and anguish it’s typically portrayed as, or is it mental torture that arises from being trapped in a room with those put there to see the worst in yourself? Personally, I’m not sure which seems like the safer option any more. If you had to, which would you choose?

Many thanks to Day One Theatre Group for initing me to review, and congratulations for putting on an excellent (and now sold out!) show: find out more about their work here!

If you liked this post, you might like this one: my review of What We Wished For by Sheffield People’s Theatre!

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