As we left the theatre last week, we headed straight for the bar.
Unusual for me, usually I’m driving, and unusual for me because usually the theatre bar is closed post-production.
This was ‘The Other Room‘ at Porter’s Bar. Cardiff’s first pub theatre.
And this was the response to sitting in a space accommodating just 44 seats to watch the first production, of Blasted.
Messaged in advance to forearm me with the knowledge of how shocking the themes which underpin the play are, I read a few reviews, and felt that this was a production which should be seen, to understand just what theatre can accomplish. Naively perhaps, especially because my brain seems to have a habit of separation, so I was completely shocked by the final scenes, I may have read but I had chosen not to absorb. In a theatre space, with everything in front of you, there is no choice, tears may have been shed.
On taking the first sips of a much-needed drink, the suggestion that the production would continue to be absorbed over the coming days has rung true.
As all the reviews will tell you, Sarah Kane’s Blasted is shocking, and whether it is shocking in context, or with a view to shock for me in an unknown.
We choose what we read, we choose we watch on television or listen to on the radio. And whilst The Other Room handled the production sensitively, ensuring the audience understood ‘the escape route’, there is something about being in the theatre which, more so than a film, keeps you engaged.
The reality of this play is that we do not know, some choose not to, blissful ignorance, but this play deals with so many taboos, as always, the acceptance of war takes it place in our society, in some ways this acceptance has allowed the realities of war to be escaped, what we perceive we know, what we are most comfortable not knowing.
As always, I am astounded by the actors, the characters created. Three characters who accept the 44-strong voyeurs into a hotel room in Leeds. I tried, and hopefully succeeded in hindsight, to remind myself that these were actors. As repulsed as I honestly was by Ian, that Christian Patterson as an actor did an astounding job, taking on scenes which even now typing this make me grimace. That this is the first time I recall crying in the theatre, so convincing was the unfolding story. That of course I knew the reality (reinforced by reciting in my head “It’s not real”), but that how much you fall into the story in the position as voyeur that I could not help but focus on a point ‘off-scene’ to bring myself back.
Louise Collins as Cate added to the lack of control, how this fragile individual was able to be in this circumstance, the portrayal of Cate allowed the disgust toward Ian to grow, and yet somehow, it was possible to understand the change of power, as Cate became the stronger character, even if this was accomplished by a bargaining power few would aspire to achieve.
Over a week on, I am still not sure how I feel, and I think in itself this has to be a good thing.
Yes, some are more aware of the atrocities of war, and yes, some do not need to have this relived in a theatre setting to bring it home.
But as long as it causes disgust, is as long as we know we need to not sit back as commentators, but to know that it is not acceptable, a ‘call to action’ perhaps.
And, aside from this being a review of the production itself, to The Other Room, I wonder how people discover the wonders of fringe theatre, and that I have never heard of pub theatre to know how much this adds to Cardiff. But yes, this is definitely a welcome addition, I compare it to experiencing Maudie’s Rooms, a way to make theatre even more acceptable, a way to take theatre even further.