David Hare’s The Blue Room is typically produced as a star vehicle. Over ninety minutes we follow two actors portray five women and five men through ten relationships. Each scene takes a character from the scene before, and then passes the new character onto the scene after – a Chinese Whispers of sex. Here, instead of the big name stars, 5pound theatre have given these roles to young Melbourne actors Kaitlyn Clare and Zak Zavod.
For their Adelaide season, director Jason Cavanagh has staged the work in clothing store Urban Spaceman Vintage, and for the most part this works greatly to the advantage of the play. Costume changes hang on the clothing racks alongside the clothes for sale; posters, chairs, a keyboard, brandy glasses all seem at home in the space, and at a glance it’s largely impossible to tease out what exists organically and what has been placed their for the production. In three scenes, the audience is asked to stand and move to a different part of the space – which can lead to some awkward wrangling and sightlines, but brings out the versatility of this found space.
The unfortunate side effect of being in this space, however, is how much it ages Hare’s text. I was genuinely surprised to realise the play was written in 1998 when I sat down to reference it for this review: from this production I would have dated it in the 80s. When I had this assumption, placing the play in this space gave the text more sense: our lives are filled with the objects of generations gone past. I arrived at the show in my 60s sundress on my 70s bicycle*, and to tease life into the clothing and bric-a-brac in vintage shops by placing a work of theatre in their added so much to both the production and to the location. But this was when I was watching thinking I was being told a story from 30 years ago, not 15, and now I don’t quite know how to reconcile those emotions towards the work.