Review: Bookable Room 12 at the Drama Studio Rehearsal Room

With just one room, some plastic chairs, and the occasional dead-body, this eclectic comedy journeyed through a succession of wacky events flowing in and out of Bookable Room 12. The opening of the play welcomes us into a student-theatre-style performance piece – nothing out of the ordinary there. But just as the audience relaxes back into this familiar farce about workplace harassment, the world of the play is suddenly and unexpectedly broken, opening a gateway into the conflicts between members of ‘Big Man Theatre Company’. This nicely established the play’s meta-tone, but also provided a satirical look at the theatre industry, which I suspect was not lost on many of the audience members.

But the writers’ (Sebastian Garbacz and Saul Kendrick) skill for satire and sharp comedy doesn’t stop there; a series of completely different scenarios follow, many of which adopt a Monty Python-style of sketch comedy. The characters are constantly changing, and you are forced to dispel any expectation of ‘the-well-made-play’. But this is by no means a criticism; the concept of the ever changing nature of one room, which any dingbat or sociopath has the power to book, was exciting. From a delusional geography lecturer manipulating his colleagues, to a kooky self-defense tutor disappearing through mysterious walls, the audience was definitely kept on their toes.

The one consistent character was the cleaner, played by Alex Gallacher, who offered a humorous segue between each scene, as well as some endearing commentary. However, the meta-nature of this play meant that the cleaner was not entirely who she seemed to be. The show was bursting with energy, and the comedy was heightened throughout; however, some scenes were more successful than others. A scene juxtaposing Harry Potter fanatics with harem-wearing, spell chanting yoga mums, seemed to drag out and began to rely on the kookiness of the situation. Shortening of scenes like these would have contained their comedic effect more successfully.

Actors multi-rolling many different characters was generally well executed, however, some played too close to naturalism, and could have gone a step further to adopted that Monty Python style of exaggerated characterisation, to match the overly-stylised nature of the dialogue and bizarre scenarios. Tom Rowntree achieved this successfully, meaning each of his roles was clearly defined. The direction from Alasdair Lindsay and Molly Bernardin was dynamic and fluid; each scene became animated in a totally different way from the last, which meant the pace and tone was constantly changing. However, this could have been better sustained, as the scenes towards the end did start to lag, and transitions could have been faster; there were occasions where I was left looking at a blank stage a little too long.

Overall, this hybrid of sketch-show and play was compelling; its quirky characters offered up many funny moments and unexpected turns, leaving the audience in fits of giggles. The end was slightly baffling, as the play seemed to go round in a loop, meaning the audience was unsure whether to leave. This successfully blurred the line between theatre and reality, but could have been done with more commitment from the actors. This is a play that clearly wanted to push the boundaries and experiment with a new approach to theatre, which I greatly commend.

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