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The Escape Room - Flight Path Theatre (NSW)

Written Annie Boyle and Libby Bramble. Directed by Steven Hopley


A new Australian work by emerging writers showcases an absurd, comedic murder mystery that promises plenty of laughs with further development


Reviewed by Juliana Payne

Flight Path Theatre, Marrickville

Until May 25th, 2024


The Escape Room is a new Australian, locally written play, billed as an absurd, comedy/murder mystery play like no other. The set-up is appealing, especially if you know anything about the classic and ubiquitous Agatha Christie-style plot, with a quirky detective who somehow solves an impenetrable murder case and inevitably finds out the culprit was the person we’d all least expect.


In this case, seven participants turn up to an Escape Room, some with ulterior motives. A feuding couple, their friend, an actress and her not-so-subtle fan, and two siblings. Of course, we all know that one person won’t be leaving the room, and very quickly we find out which one. With parody and satire of this nature, where characters are archetypes or cliches, the writing needs to be top notch, the jokes sharp and pointed, the delivery rapid and the timing excellent. Unfortunately the writing and performances didn’t quite live up to what they possibly could have been.


The Escape Room - Flightpath Theatre

The “Virgin Flights” program at the Flight Path Theatre focuses on bringing new and emerging works to a showcase in front of a live audience. In the outcome wherein the feedback for a piece is to be applied for future productions, The Escape Room will benefit. But in the showcase itself, the piece felt as though it needed more rehearsal and workshopping, despite the hard work and heart clearly being put on stage; the structure, dialogue and characters overall needed more coherence.


This production demonstrates just how important the development process is for theatre, as it is for film. The Australian theatrical sector sadly does not allow the time or money in many cases for works to be developed to their true potential which quite often results in productions that are rushed to market because they need the money; they can’t afford to nurture the work through a long and necessary development period. Most creatives often can’t afford a dramaturg, and even the mainstage companies like Belvoir or Sydney Theatre Company with resident dramaturgs don’t always get it right, so it’s no folly on the creative team who have presented their workshopped piece here.


There are good bones in the production, it just needs more development to put the right flesh on them.

The role of the dramaturg is so important, even in a light comedy, because they flesh out the world of the play. They unpack human behaviour and give heft and plausibility to the characters. They are like oxygen – you don’t notice them, but you know when they are missing.


Annie Boyle and Libby Bramble, who have promising comic skills honed online and at comedy festivals, clearly have laid out the beginnings of their work here and it could well turn out to be an inspired choice. There are good bones in the production, it just needs more development to put the right flesh on them. There were stand-out moments of absurd humour, and comedian Kate Dolan was the cause of most of them.


The production team could hone their dramatic and comic skills watching some classic absurd comedies like Rhinoceros or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for timing, pacing and delivery, as well as for plotting and character development, which is vital, even if when aiming for the absurd and exposing human folly. Most of all, as writers, there will come that important time where they will learn how to kill their darlings.


 

CAST & CREATIVES

Director: Steven Hopley   

Set & Costume Designer: Amy Lane and Bella Wellstead  

Lighting & Sound Designer: Finn Appleton 

SX/LXOperator: Noah Cohen-Stoddart 

Featuring Annie Boyle, Libby Bramble, Kate Dolan, Steve Maresca, Savannah Melvin, Aaron Okey, Yarno Rohling and Harlee Timms.

Produced by Craig Ivanoff

Running time: 70 minutes


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