The 1960s are revisited by 4FRONT theatre company with their short (1 hour 20 mins, no interval) play Going Down, written and directed at the OFS studio by Darren Furniss. We have here three men and three women descending in a lift with its operator, not precisely trapped in it since it continues to descend jerkily from floor to floor, but rather unable to leave it until they have got off their chest the dark events that are consuming each of them - events from their past, and in a couple of cases from their present, too.
Just as Estragon and Vladimir in Beckett's Waiting for Godot indulge in parallel monologues that superficially but misleadingly seem to amount to dialogue, so our troubled six begin by sizing up and then fencing with one another before one by one they step forward into a pool of light and tell their stories in 10 increasingly harrowing minutes. In the 15 mins that remains, the audience expects and no doubt hopes for some sort of resolution, but this never in fact occurs. The individual angst and frustration that preoccupies them never breaks through the carapace of isolation in which each lives and suffers.
If this all sounds quite heavy, that's probably a fair summation, even though the play began and finished with Lisa Gerrard singing beguilingly from 'Heat'. I felt sometimes we were eavesdropping on case studies from RD Laing's 1960s 'Sanity, Madness and the Family' as our lift droppers paraded their dysfunctional sexual histories and latent violence.
While Darren Furniss' material struggles to move beyond the stodgy, his direction is simple and effective, and his collaboration with his lighting designer is inspired. Spotlighting and silhouette work is imaginative; each actor in his monologue looms on the rear wall as a gigantic shadow. Acting is uniformly excellent. Chris Holt shines as the ebullient Dave, and as the mute lift attendant Sam Clarke, a cross between Quasimodo and Lucky from Godot, he is both robotic and threatening.
And finally, a small thing, but why is it that so many Oxford theatre company's do not produce the barest programme, not even a single sheet of A4? It would be appreciated by the audience!
Andrew Bell (DI Reviewer), 27/01/10
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