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What Goes on in Front of Closed Doors | King’s Head Theatre | Review

EMMA Ed FringeMolly Brentwood (Emma Bentley) is of Generation Z – the one after the Millennials – though neither term is used in What Goes On In Front of Closed Doors. The difference, it seems to me, is in temperament. She is frustrated, but the anger never boils over into indiscriminate rage against all and sundry. She encounters genuine problems (in my humble opinion, not having a roof over one’s own head constitutes a problem in a modern industrialised society), and isn’t crying over spilt milk.

If she’s crying at all – there’s no explicit indication that she does – it’s because she’s lost her mother. There may be the occasional expletive but her vocabulary is far from ‘eff, cee and effing cee’. And the story is entirely, at least in my mind, credible. Molly – the rapport Bentley establishes with the audience is so good that first name terms apply on this occasion – freely admits that while how she ended up in her current situation can be explained, why she’s where she is now is impossible to work out accurately.

It might have been this, it might have been that perhaps it was something else, maybe it was a combination of some or all of those things, or it could have been none of those things whatsoever. Maybe it was fate, coincidence, bad luck, written in the stars, intervention from a higher power – no possibility is dismissed. It’s a mature line of thinking that is beyond her still tender years. Better, at least in this regard, to be Molly than to be one of those people stuck in a rut having blamed someone or something for their present circumstances, with no ability to move on.

Some effective use of video technology, including a camcorder clip from her childhood, dated ‘July 8, 2002, 10:44am’ (Molly likes that sort of detail, she tells the audience, so I jotted it down and stuck it in this review), subtly enhances the performance. The multiple screens on stage were never a distraction, but at the risk of nit-picking, I was unable to fully grasp what was meant to be achieved in projecting live footage of Molly on stage – in a relatively small theatre space with tiered seating.

Without being preachy, and without tearing into any particular political ideologue, this play tells a profoundly moving personal story, and she is left to muddle through without even a friend to just confide in. There is, for those who want there to be one, some symbolism in the appearance of a suitcase: Molly’s taking us on a journey, y’see, and the audience is in for a bumpy ride. The detailed descriptions in each scene leave little to the imagination – no bad thing, as it’s good for everyone to be on the same page – and the script’s humour makes this tale all the more compelling.

There is, as tends to be the case with contemporary writing, a critical incident that irreparably damages what was a reasonable and borderline carefree lifestyle. What sets this play apart, however, is the character continuing to do her best to carry on – there’s no melodrama, and no ‘woe is me’ dramatics. Emotionally engaging, this intriguing and heartfelt production demonstrates that not everyone sleeping on the streets is there of their own volition.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

‘It’s amazing, how certain you can be about things going one way and then, a couple of decisions later, they end
up somewhere completely different.’

How do you actually get to the point of losing your home? And once you’re out there, where are you going to go?
And how do you get back on your feet? Are you in danger? Today, you’re finally going to meet Molly.
Emma Bentley (To She or Not to She) returns following a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
with a new show about how everyone is only a few steps away from homelessness.

Tour dates
The Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford | 9 – 10 February
King’s Head Theatre, London | 18 – 19 February
Playbox Theatre, Warwick | 16 March
Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse, Oxford | 19 – 20 April

Listings information
Production: What Goes On In Front of Closed Doors
Company: joue le genre
Audience: Suitable for 14+


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