I must confess that I had neither seen nor heard of the 1991 cult film upon which this play is based. I knew beforehand, thanks to some quick online research, that the film featured only two characters, played by Alan Rickman and Madeleine Stowe, and that the film's writer and director, Radha Bharadwaj, worked closely with human rights campaigners Amnesty International, who served as consultants for the script. Taking this into account; I expected a slightly preachy, oh-so politically correct, sensationalistic "morality" drama.
How naive of me! What I got was an intense, sinister, palm-wettingly exciting political thriller which left me so far on the edge of my seat I assumed that it was broken! The two student players, Adam Scott Taylor and Olivia Charrto-Jones, both turned in performances so breathtakingly self-assured and painfully affected that at times you could be forgiven for mistaking the terrifying theatrics for real life. The mental torture inflicted upon the helpless author by the deranged interrogator is both fascinating and disturbing to watch. Particularly chilling is the light-hearted manner in which he carries out much of his interrogation. He appears to find his humiliating mind games and shock tactics amusing at times, which only serves to highlight his unwavering dedication to his cause.
Closet Land is not a particularly pleasant viewing experience. There is a sub-plot concerning child abuse which some theatre-goers may find disturbing, and some of the extended torture sequences make for highly uncomfortable viewing. Much of the violence is implied; it is the sickeningly gleeful behaviour of the interrogator that shocks and appalls more than anything. It does, however, raise some highly important points about humanity, degradation and respect for others, about how moral outrage can lead to violence, and about how governments can stifle art and freedom of expression.
Happily, these issues do not serve to suppress the dramatic flow and suspense of the production; if anything, they strengthen them. Josh Lowe's predominantly synthesized musical score is hauntingly bleak and magnificently eerie, perfectly underpinning the malignance of the production. Matthew Perkins has done a fine job in directing the production. The lighting is superb, brilliantly switching between the ominous yellow of a lightbulb to the coldness of a green strobe light. Even the lighting seems dehumanising in this production!
Recommended to lovers of horror films, thrillers, dramas and morality plays. The faint of heart need not apply. A devastatingly honest production that deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. Must check out the film......