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Enclosed Spaces by Daybreak Theatre Company

What could possibly happen in a piece called ‘Lift’ in a show called Enclosed Spaces? Being stuck in a lift in order for a forced conversation to take place feels like it’s been done before. There’s even an entire musical, called Stuck Elevator, based on the true story of a delivery man in the Bronx who was trapped in a lift for 81 hours. There is some depth to the narrative here: Morgan (Kia Kielty) charms her way into a private building, having tracked the movements of Alex (Chris Clynes) who had ended their relationship due to physical and psychological abuse. Kielty, who wrote the play, presents a credible account of a man tormented and controlled by a woman: part of his reluctance to pursue any sort of legal action stemmed from a lack of confidence that he would be believed. But then there’s Mollie, their daughter – to cut a long story short, he obtained sole custody.

Enclosed Spaces by Daybreak Theatre CompanyTherapy is suggested, as it was in ‘Waste’, where Harry (Alex Miller de Luis) asks Jamie (Annie Knox) if she had considered it. Jamie wasn’t in the right frame of mind to think rationally about what sort of outside help may have been beneficial at the time, while Morgan is more resolute, dismissing it as something “for f—ing losers”. Strong language was commonplace throughout the evening – although, to be fair, it was about the same level that one would find at a pub on any given night or at the theatre bar during the interval. Still, it could be argued that there were a few missed opportunities for characters to be a little more articulate.

Perhaps the most effective of the four short plays was ‘Mirror’. On one level, the sheer repetitiveness of the voices in Varsha Patel’s character’s head started to become a tad boring, relentless as they were in their accusations regarding her physical appearance. Gradually, the character’s descent becomes increasingly harrowing: she becomes so socially withdrawn that the consequences are devastating for her. Her off-stage friend on the phone doesn’t suggest therapy, which is merciful on the audience, who would otherwise have been subjected to a third round of reasons why that wouldn’t have made any difference.

It’s not entirely clear, however, quite how feelings of self-loathing arose. This is also the case in ‘Waste’ – quite a few of the questions Harry throws at Jamie are answered with variations of “I don’t know”. The use of drugs and alcohol to mask emotional pain is a running theme, and the inclusion of characters from all walks of life, particularly in ‘Cubicle’, demonstrates that substance misuse occurs irrespective of age, gender or socio-economic status. It was also surprising in ‘Cubicle’ (set, surprisingly, in conveniences) who does go to a nightclub on a Friday or Saturday night – not everyone is necessarily under the age of twenty-two and looking for a sexual encounter with anything that moves, although there was a fair share of that going on too.

An unexpected (to me) twist came in ‘Waste’ – Jamie, having left the family home and seemingly wanting little, if anything, to do with her relatives, but a long talk with Harry leads her to change her mind. The actual twist is that, for reasons that will remain undisclosed here as it would give too much away, that isn’t possible. The play asserts there’s little room for complacency when it comes to family ties, even when, at least on paper, one has the majority of one’s life still to come.

It’s not all doom and gloom – some hilarious moments in ‘Cubicle’ send the audience away on a positive note. Kathryn Haywood’s character sits on the loo, spending a little time from her ex-husband, who is, in turn, snogging his new partner. Quite why she doesn’t find another nightclub or bar isn’t made clear – she might well have been using the facilities before heading off elsewhere.

Either way, she strikes up a conversation with Taja Morgan’s character, a younger woman who is still pining after a significant other who decided he would rather accept a job offer in the United States than stay in Blighty with her.

I counted eight small bottles of whisky by the end of ‘Cubicle’, hidden in various parts of Haywood’s character’s body, and I’m still not sure whether the play was suggesting that women’s clothes need more pockets or not. Yes, these are first world problems and yes, there’s a war on (at the time of writing) and all that. At the end of the day, however, these are personal stories without simple solutions and plenty of food for thought.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Now looking to launch with their own creative writing, Kia Kielty and Annie Knox have created four short plays, each exploring the theme of being trapped, whether physically or metaphorically.
● ‘Waste’ (drama) takes place in a hospital, where a girl waiting to be seen finds herself pestered by a curious young boy who won’t stop asking questions she doesn’t want to answer.
● ‘Lift’ (drama) takes place in a broken-down elevator, where two not-so-strangers trapped together confront their dark history.
● ‘Mirror’ (abstract) takes a look at body dysmorphia and mental health, approaching the invisible battle many people face every day when they struggle to look at their own reflection.
● ‘Cubicle’ (comedy/drama) takes place in a bathroom nightclub, where two women form a surprising connection as they listen in on all the drunk patrons going in and out of the toilets.

The Golden Goose Theatre, 146 Camberwell New Road, London, SE5 0RR

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