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September 14, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)

In the Next Room, par ‘the vibrator play’, tracks the early days of said sex toy. The original steam-powered ‘Manipulator’ appeared in 1869 to a thriving entrepreneurial market of young doctors just coming to grips with modern science. The administration of…stimulation to the tender articles of one’s body…had been touted as an effective treatment for both men and women in everything from nausea to madness since the 18th century. Dr Givings is one such administrator and day in, day out, he goes at it with compassion and detachment; admirable qualities in a husband unless, of course, you’re his wife. Cue conflict: lonesome Catherine Givings, desperate for intimacy, unable to breastfeed her own child, wild eyed with everything to say on anything. The mysterious electrical device (developed some eleven years post The Manipulator), and its associated clientele, bring about a venerable thematic book of revelations.

Set against a landscape of ambiguous American accents, the performances occupy a fluctuating space between slap stick and domestic melodrama – pain and suffering is alienated by the repetitive physical accomplishments of the operating table. Emma Smith (as Catherine Givings) and Geoff Simmons (Dr Givings) both have moments of well earned laughter, but their emotive relationship is a jarring fabrication. The company appeared to be waiting on cues, a routine of going through the motions. The stage is engaged by an intricately established living room and workroom (separated by a door), a very tidy looking set of period-inspired furnishings including piano and lamps, but used little. The lighting changes often with mild effect, and is rarely synchronised with the sounds of electricity switching on and off.

But these criticisms cannot begin to compare to the flaws of the text itself. I am determined had every extended metaphor been removed from that play, whilst fifty percent of the material would be gone, the plot would continue to function admirably. In a likewise manner, had several of the characters and their subplots been removed, it should be observed that not only is the play shorter, the jokes funnier, and the cues sharper, but fundamentally the purpose of the work becomes more apparent.

In The Next Room or ‘The Vibrator Play’
By Sarah Ruhl
7 – 17 September at Gryphon Theatre

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  1. Annie says:

    …darn… those Tony Awards always get it wrong, don’t they? :-}

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