Behind Closed Doors is almost a lesson in why you shouldn‘t have fourteen performers in a giant cave performing together. Then again, it is also a great example of why you should. The Chaménos Collective trades in shows that feel much bigger than they are and continue to put on extremely interesting shows, warts and all.
Behind Closed Doors mixes scenes from a slightly demented circus with the dark dark secrets of a seemingly perfectly normal street. Narrated by the ringmaster of the circus, we are taken on a journey where the standard form is one scene from the street which clashes with a scene from the circus. Set in The Vaults‘ enormous Cavern space, and dependent on where you sit there is no way you‘ll take it all in. Then again, there is so much going on that you are guaranteed to miss a lot.
The Cavern is a massive space, but even with fourteen performers it feels like the space is overwhelming the performance. They are not helped by the choice of making the performance promenade. Yes, it does make it more circus-like and forces the audience to choose what they focus on, but the space doesn‘t allow for an atmosphere to build. Instead of feeling like a complete performance, it becomes a series of scenes.
Then again, what a series of scenes! We have a hilarious strongman choosing whom to love, husband and wife torn apart, a tango scene, a tarot playing psychic, clowns, a ringmaster, a widow, several instruments, a ballet, three sisters squabbling, half a dozen of Alexander Luttley‘s beautiful monologues, burlesque, crazy costumes and a ritualistic exit. Did I mention that the show is less than an hour long? The sheer amount of ideas becomes exhilarating in its own right.
As part of the company’s aesthetic is a method of delivering monologues that emphasise feeling over sense. It can be difficult to follow, which is a real shame because what is being delivered is often gorgeous prose. The truly clear passages of text really stick out, and become stronger for it. There is an element of randomness to the show which doesn‘t come across enough to the audience. I can only imagine this to be exciting to the cast but needs to be made clearer to the audience so they can participate in said excitement.
For all these criticisms, it is a joy to watch this show. It is a huge artistic risk, full of bold choices and wacky ideas. It looks like a show that is going to grow leaps and bounds as it is performed more for audiences and will hopefully get put on in a smaller space at some point. It is pure avant-garde theatre. If that is not for you, run away from this show. If it is however you‘ll find yourself riveted by this ensemble. 3/5
Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.
Behind Closed Doors is currently showing at this year’s VAULT Festival until Sunday 22nd February. For more information on the production, visit here…