Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Two men sit in a room. A door bangs. One suggests that the other gets up to shut it. The other doesn’t think it his responsibility. The door bangs again. An enthralling piece of theatre that peels away before your eyes like the layers of an onion before reaching a surprising and fiery conclusion.
Two men sit apart in a room with only each other and a banging door for company. Asymmetrical personalities though they clearly are, pleasantries are exchanged which morph into deeper discussions covering the banal to the profound. Each subject is attacked from the polemic viewpoint with which they are most comfortable. To one, everything is black and white, to the other everything is a different shade of grey. To one, orders are there to be followed, to the other orders are the starting point for an examination of motive.
Gradually, Tony Earnshaw’s gripping play (perceptively directed by Stefan Dubois) reveals that the two men know each other. The more the conversation develops, the more you realise that these two shared experiences that they would prefer not to relive, not to admit to. All that punctuates their increasingly tense conversation is the banging door.
Somebody died as a result of something one of these two did, or did not do. And the impending inquiry wants to know why. Corporal Boyd appears to have all the answers, convinced that he has done no wrong, that he has behaved responsibly, that his approach of “every man for himself” in a crisis does not conflict with the team ethics essential in any army unit. His unwavering self assurance contrasts with that of the angst ridden Captain Ryan, an officer with more questions than answers. But as this enthralling piece unfolds, so the tables are turned leading to a crescendo of a denouement in which Boyd’s past actions comes back to haunt him.
This is a veritable spider’s web of a drama. At first you can’t see the point of the conversation going on between the two men. But you are slowly drawn into the web of intrigue that surrounds their past lives, the actions they took and, more importantly, those that they should have taken.
The door acts throughout as an allegory – as a loaded gun, as the men talking, as a bell tolling for those that won’t come back from wars we’d rather forget and where we probably shouldn’t have been in the first place, and for one man in particular who made the ultimate sacrifice.
And the actors bring the well researched and crafted script to life with taut, tense exchanges punctuated by moments of deep, dark comedy with Tom Cobley (Boyd) and Chris Westgate (Ryan) proving masters in holding an audience’s attention. Stand-offish at first, as you might expect two strangers to appear, the walls gradually come down as they re-examine their roles that led the death of their colleague.
Nothing distracts the audience from their duologue – just five chairs to give the appearance of a waiting room, a lighting plot that is as simple as you will find and that single, nagging sound effect of the door banging. Imbued with humour, pathos, tension and an explosive finale, this is a piece of theatre worth going a long way to see