When walking through Chad’s garden up to their Chapel, I was not expecting a visit to hell. But Green Door’s production leaves their audience no time to adjust to the role of being an audience member. With a strong knock on the ageing chapel doors, the Valet, played by Nathan Jarvis, seats the audience, welcoming them to hell. The fourth wall is immediately broken, but a whole other world is simultaneously created. Now residents of hell, just as the characters in the play, the audience are made to face up to themes of entrapment, religion, and agency, all before the scripted performance begins. The success of this exposition sets the groundwork for the success of the entirety of the play, shining in its nuance and aesthetic.
Sartre’s No Exit follows three characters, Garcin, Inez and Estelle as they become acquainted with hell after their death. But as the play progresses and each character is incrementally introduced into the promenade space of the chapel, they seem to realise hell and indeed life was never as they assumed it to be. With a very effective addition of an ensemble, Green Door highlights the separation between the self and others, which emphasises Sartre’s existentialist call to face up to one’s actions authentically and fully. The choice of a promenade space also stresses this so effectively, the audience quite literally bystanders in the experience of the audience and made to realise ultimately, they are bystanders in their own lives.
The setting of the play only begins to realise its visual excellence. There is so much credit in the choice of a chapel as a space to depict hell, playing with the notions of traditional and post-modern hell. However, the costuming was absolutely outstanding. You could see each choice was greatly intentional. As highlighted by the directors Maria Galimberti and Tia Noris in the programme notes, colour is so effective in exposing the character of each of the players. Even the fit of the clothing was perfect, Garcin’s suit just fitted enough to show his pretension and Estelle’s dress just loose enough to show her vapidity.
When characters are so well established in a production, it is sometimes hard to differentiate the work of the actors and the work of the directors and producers. It can be said without a doubt however that Iqra Khadiza, playing Inez, shone throughout. Inez punctures the play as a character, but Khadiza excels so greatly even in the subtitles and nuances of the character. Their performance was outstanding, from their physicality to articulation and intonation of the voice.
With the same logic, Alessia Laird played Estelle with a similar dedication, but due to the vapid nature of the character it was hard to tell if some of the missed marks and moments of unconvincing emptiness were due to issues with performance or were in fact an indication of an excellent interpretation. Regardless, the 90-minute continuous drama piece is a challenging feat for any young actor and their overall performance was excellent, especially in moments of intensity.
Stephen Ledger depicted Garcin’s precision very well, their sharp bone structure and physical presence of stage really helping to form a total and believable character. Their performance was flawless and served the character’s role of drawing each player into an evolving existential dialogue. I really enjoyed the control Ledger had over both the performance space and the audience. Silences were held well. However, the only part of the interpretation that was lacking was Garcin’s age. Ledger depicts a very young Garcin, when the character is supposed to be experienced, most presumably with age. This did not take away from the overall positive performance, but made the believability of the character dip whenever mentions of Garcin’s past life is mentioned.
The highlight of the production was its conclusion. The use of unison, the whole ensemble laughing manically creates an alienating effect that makes the audience feel truly estranged. It is absurd and bone chilling and achieves the self-reflection and actualisation that Sartre intended. The Green Door Theatre Company takes Sartre’s already vital text and forms it into a truly excellent and lucid piece of drama.
Featured Image: Credit to Georgia Vitty, with permission.