Why this is so interesting becomes apparent once you know how the play is structured. David Hare’s adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Der Reigen (‘round dance’) is comprised of a single scene that is recreated in ten different ways. Each is a conjugal combination of one man and one woman who consummate the scene’s amorous potential before one of them is swapped out (alternately she then he) while the other character remains to make half of a new pair for the next episode. In total there are five male characters and five female characters, each of whom is seen in two different contexts, and each with the potential to appear quite different in the change of light. As one scene ends and the next begins, the recurring character is effectively shifted to show a new facet of themselves.
Every facet, however, is a romantic or sexual one. There are no scenes in The Blue Room of deathbed swan songs, no mortal enemies duelling to the finish, and no brave heroes rescuing damsels from villainous ne’er-do-wells. All we see is a circular chase with copulation always in the equation. (Think of the film Love Actually but with more infidelity and promiscuity, and rather less of that ‘Richard Curtis’ brand of feeling.)
The cast are required to be rather brave, not only for appearing in all states of undress (including the most complete) but also for having to adopt a wide range of characters of varying age, class and nationality that have to be portrayed differently in two distinct scenes. Matters are further complicated by their numerous costume changes, often in the dark. In a single act with no intermission, the cast of The Blue Room cover more than enough space and time for a typical three-act production.
Much effort has gone into the set dressing and original musical score that is performed live by a small ensemble of musicians; however, the jury is still out on whether or not their cumulative effects gel. Nonetheless, if you can come out this week to see another performance - and pairing of actors - be sure to follow up here and submit your own review.