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Greater London
posted/updated: 03 Oct 2011 -
The Door
Tony Earnshaw
society/company: Unfit Productions
performance date: 28 Feb 2011
venue: The Holy Apostle Church Hall, Pimlico, London
reviewer/s: Bradley Barlow (Sardines review)


The Holy Apostle Church Hall in Pimlico could be considered an odd choice of venue for a play by a new writer but in reality perfectly suited the evening. Two-hander The Door has already won a number of awards � most notably the Sir Michael Caine awards for Best Actor (awarded jointly to both performers), and Best New Play, as well as countless others. This charity �gala� performance on behalf of New Ways at the gorgeously quaint hall in central London was well attended, but with such high praise already bestowed upon it, could the play live up to expectations?

Put simply, The Door is about two men sat in a room waiting to be called as they grow gradually impatient with an unseen banging door and bicker over who should close it. Using the age-old simplistic set of a row of chairs on a bare stage and two spotlights, there was nowhere for the characters to hide. Conversations flipped from politics to religion to Only Fools and Horses as the audience begins to realise the two men have a shared history having fought together in Helmand Province: Chris Westgate�s pompous Ryan having served as captain to Tom Cobley�s rough, ready and arrogant Boyd. It transpires that the two men have been called in front of a civilian jury investigating a fellow comrade�s death, causing discussions of duty and responsibility to collide with those of guilt and blame.

Tony Earnshaw has written two individually defined characters whose differences in class and culture provide the basis for a majority of the play � Ryan reading Wolf Hall as Boyd declares himself as being a Sun newspaper man; Ryan wanting to discuss political fallouts and Boyd more interested in The X Factor. It was apparent very early on that the two actors had performed the play numerous times before, their performances almost flawless. They were both were fantastic to watch and entirely deserving of the awards bestowed upon them � I can see why any awards judges would have had difficulty in deciding which was �best� of the two. My only criticism would be that during the play�s tension-building final moments, one of the pair seemed to stop short of completing a line which frustratingly deflated the mood. This, however, really is only a minor concern.

The short one-act play was cleverly structured using the play�s opening exchange of dialogue repeated to signal that a new section was approaching, bringing with it a different topic for discussion. By having the repeated dialogue delivered by alternating characters with differing emotions Earnshaw narrowly avoided overusing the device. These repetitions also made use of the banging door, an effect that I was expecting to hear more of, although this may have been less effective if it had been heard regularly throughout.

It would be difficult for me to list the various discussions the characters had as they managed to cram a lot into the 55-minute play. The most commonly repeated topic was war and the morality of engaging in it, quite natural given our characters� occupations. Whilst the play was littered with wit and intelligent discussion, at times the author had very little to say about �war� that hasn�t already been widely addressed elsewhere. This shouldn�t count against Earnshaw, however, as there was plenty of originality to be found elsewhere. The play may have benefitted from a more abrupt and ambiguous ending � as it stands, the story was neatly wrapped up and didn�t allow the audience the freedom to work out whether the characters� scruples were strong enough to do the morally right thing.

Stefan Dubois� direction ensured the play didn�t become static and has assisted the actors in creating two very memorable performances. I had hoped that the upstage would be utilised more often but the rest of the stage was used enough for this not to become too big an issue.

Overall, this was a wonderful production with fantastic performances of a very strong script. I sincerely hope that the production goes from strength to strength and that Tony Earnshaw�s text is given consideration by a wider audience. I also hope that the team raised money and awareness of the charity New Ways and the work they do in Kenya. For more information on the charity, I would urge you to visit www.newways.org.uk.









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