No Exit, directed by Lela Burt and presented by The Arts & Humanities Student Council, is truly an introspective gem that plays upon the fears and insecurities we all have as living beings. The show expertly reflecting parts of ourselves within irredeemable souls with whom we otherwise would never associate. TAP Centre for Creativity’s black box theatre and thrust stage allowed for a more intimate show with different angles that allowed certain aspects of characters and actions during scenes to go unseen, adding an almost elusive edge to the production.
Written by Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit depicts Hell, in which three damned souls, Joseph Garcin (Aaron Fysh), Inez Serrano (Brook Rabinovici) and Estelle Delaunay (Cameron Cawston) punishments are to be locked within an uncomfortable room with each other for all of eternity. With no obvious torture devices in sight, they make it their responsibility to find out and come to grips with their version of Hell, and themselves.
Set during World War Two, No Exit takes place within a room styled in the French Second Empire, but in the eyes of director Burt and props and set designer Jacquelle Sutton, their choice in creating a minimalist set for the production allows an interactive opportunity for each member of the audience to create their own idea of Hell within the room, inclusive of personal touches.
Costume Designer Sara Park knew exactly what she was doing when dressing each character. Not only did it exemplify the time period, but each colour associated with the main characters accentuated their personalities and was personified by the style of dress. Specifically, I’d like to give a hand to Park on The Valet’s (Anthony Fava) original red and black bellhop uniform. It helped to set the period and, in combination with the pale husk like makeup, helped bring Fava’s character to life. The makeup added to his seemingly overworked undead bellhop, discommoded with his guests but sneaking in a laugh or two for the audience.
The play starts off in their private room within hotel Hell, warm lighting cast upon the scene and music flowing in the compact room that sets the tone of the entire show. Erik Satie’s Trois Morceaux en forme de poire provides the perfect tone for the show; aloof and uncomfortable but with an impending sense of doom and dread.
Fysh, whose starred in such productions as The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza and Lost Boy, again brings to life the character of Joseph Garcin, a seemingly average and polite, but arrogant journalist. From the start, Garcin is wrought with fear and nervousness, as if something heavy weighs on his soul. Fysh expertly navigates Garcin, truly in tune with his characters emotions as he’s able to switch from fearful to callous when the moment calls. Fysh truly embodies his character through his physical reactions to touch and words, from his fidgety hands displaying his nervousness when his face could not, to his back seemingly breaking with every shout of Inez’s ‘Coward.’
Rabinovici, who got her start in the UWO student written short Madman, now takes a leading role in the production as Inez Serrano, a working-class women with an eye for the ladies. Serrano has no issues showing who she is from the start, a refreshingly honest but blunt and manipulative sadist who gives her life meaning through causing pain in others. Rabinovici as Serrano is able to convey her lust towards Estelle through sweet nothings and gentle caresses, and her dominant and commanding presence draws focus to each calculating expression she makes, from quiet analyzation to a haughty smirk. Truly Rabinovici has no trouble becoming Serrano and embracing all she has to offer, and I’m truly excited to see what she does next.
New to the scene but you’d never know it, Cawston plays high society gal Estelle Delaunay, a seemingly ditzy and vain seductress at first, who is later revealed to be an attention seeking psychopath obsessed with the male gaze and, in this case, Garcin. Cawston expertly disguises Delaunay’s true personality through a crafted mask of makeup and flirtation, which frankly made it a surprise when Delaunay’s true personality was called into question. From the way Cawston made the stage her own through her dreamy dance sequence, or to the never-ending application of makeup, her facade, it was never a dull moment.
Only minor issues arose during the performance, but are easily corrected and do not draw from the brilliance of the play or its actors. Fysh stumbled over very few words in some of his lines, but that’s to be expected when you play a character as passionate and emotional as Garcin. Rather than repeating the word once more, making the error clear to the audience, power through, because chances are, nobody will notice or they’ll get the gist anyway.
Secondly, spotlights on each character during scenes with visions was a great idea and added to the focus of the characters in that moment. However, while Garcin and Delaunay’s spotlights were spot on, Serrano’s spotlight wasn’t exactly on her, but rather the audience in front of her. Otherwise, the rest of the lighting, sound effects and visuals were on cue.
The chemistry on stage between the actors and their characters is flawless with Fysh, Rabinovici and Cawston, working together to portray the needs of each character and their relationships to the others. They all simultaneously wish to reject each other but are reliant on one another fix or fulfill some aspect of themselves that they themselves cannot.
No Exit is truly a piece that invokes thought and philosophical questions with no simple answer. It blurs the lines between black and white, right and wrong, and truly asks the audience whether they themselves have the right to judge when Garcin, Delaunay and Serrano’s flaws are our own. Pride, cowardice, anger, lust, envy, vanity and the list goes on. If you crave a night of intelligent debate, thought-provoking questions and fervent emotions, then No Exit is right for you.
Please be advised that this production contains themes of sex and suicide. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit the TAP website: https:// www.tapcreativity.org/theatre