A dinner party, three work colleagues, three partners, and a sister. What could possibly go wrong.
With a title like ‘Behind Closed Doors’, one automatically assumes that something untoward is going on in the lives of a couple in the play – and by the end of the first act it could have been any of them.
Kevin Lee has undoubtedly created a brilliant piece here. Both comedy and startling accuracy came through right from the opening scene, ‘she’s just a vegan…’ and the laugh out loud moments continued throughout, despite the piece not being billed as a comedy per se. Every character was written with real thought not just in themselves but how they communicated with each other. Each couple portrayed someone who we all know with attention to the finest detail.
Emma (Suzy Whitefield) was almost bland until the last fifteen minutes when she was outstanding. The difference in her bordered on confusing – I didn’t watch her in the opening scenes opposite her boyfriend Connor (Pearce Sampson), who was annoying and invoked empathy at the same time; no mean feat. He set the rest of the dinner party up perfectly – he is a calm, natural actor and a pleasure to watch.
In the first half an hour, Mark (Ciaran Duce) probably said about 6 words and told us the most about himself of anyone on the stage. He could have given a masterclass in acting through saying absolutely nothing – his character was built on what he didn’t say and how he simply looked at and interacted with people. While he made the audience feel slightly uncomfortable he did so brilliantly. Not that he had to say much, being married to Nadia. One could argue that Krystina Westall overacted the seemingly posh, self absorbed and highly insecure Nadia, but my hunch is that there actually are people in the world like her. She got her point across perfectly and I believed every bit of self interested bitchiness, even if she made acting choices better suited to a larger space at times.
Grace (Frances Knox) and Ben (Adam Strawford) were by far my favourite couple. They nailed who they were both in themselves and as a couple from the minute they entered the dinner party and they didn’t falter. Adam Strawford in particular stood out while reeling off an impressive list of the music he played as a DJ, and the most subtle but arguably most effective moments of comedy.
Emma’s sister Kirsty (Fiona McGee) is the girl that everyone and no one wants at a dinner party. She called each person out and said what everyone else was probably thinking, while obviously making it a little bit awkward in the process. She was perfectly cringeworthy and I truly believed that she was going to cause an even bigger commotion than her mere presence did, at any moment.
Suzy Whitehead as Emma really came into her own in the final moments, when the way that she conveyed fear and anger while becoming an embodiment of emotion was phenomenal. The pair fought brilliantly, making the audience feel uncomfortable as they should.
The set was perfect. I love plays which are set in a single room. Change the arrangement of people, change the lighting, change the number of bottles of wine on the table and you can significantly alter what that room says about the situation, even when the room stays the same. Even when the dinner party moved to the dinner table, I absolutely believed that it was just in the next room despite being unable physically see it. At times it felt like people watching – in the best way. I sincerely hope that this play gets another life in the near future!
Kevin Lee’s final success was that he really cashed in on the benefit of writing a play over a musical. There was no serious mishap or climax which had to be resolved, just a series of perfectly plausible interactions between a group of people who you wouldn’t naturally find themselves at a dinner party if it wasn’t for sharing a place of work – which was drama enough. A play can finish on a cliffhanger without having to tie everything up in one all singing all dancing finale; and Behind Closed Doors did that incredibly well. Did she leave?