Another Door, Another Life

Published: 11-Oct-2016 by All Theatre

There’s a lot to like about Pymble Players’ latest thriller, Communicating Doors

From the outset, director Diane Howden’s imagining of a dystopian future in London is exacting, from the voiceover acknowledging Queen Elizabeth’s 110th birthday. Yes, there’s a wry wit that goes with this Alan Ayckbourn creation too. 

The year is 2036, England is in the grip of war, and one sweet-natured dominatrix is about to go on an epic adventure, after she stumbles across a murder plot.  The thing is – the murders have already been committed. But that’s no obstacle to foiling murder, when you can travel in time. Logical? No. Perhaps it’s unfamiliar logic – but stay with it – because Communicating Doors is no standard who-dunnit. This play takes the audience on a thrilling race against time to try and thwart a villain well worth his salt.  

There is also comedy, albeit largely innuendo, in this play about a soft-hearted dominatrix going on a quest. When her elderly client, Reece, confesses to murder, protagonist Poopay (a.k.a.“specialist sexual consultant”) is suitably unprepared: “I really just hope you’re mad. Or senile.” Poopay asserts. 
​Poopay’s opportunity to save two women’s lives, by travelling back in time through a hotel room cupboard (yes, there’s a touch of The Narnia Chronicles) is not immediately realised, or accepted. 

But going back in time 20 years, Poopay meets one of the murder victims, Reece’s uncompromisingly moral, and unflappable second wife, Ruella (Jacqui Field). The friendship between these two strong female characters is quickly cemented by circumstances, which are beyond their control – or so they initially think.

There’s a bit of thinking that goes on to trap a murderer, and the female empowerment message of this play is perhaps understated at first. What’s totally apparent is that the Pymble Players have nailed this comedy-thriller. 

​The set design, also by the director, is elaborate. The action plays out in a single hotel room (with ensuite – and bidet!), over three time zones. It’s a monochromatic set, transformed by lighting, when the characters time travel. The rotating cupboard door itself is also an engineering feat, given the intimate space.

The play's pace is fast, and reliant on the actors’ complete familiarisation with the script. The time travel is indicated by, and so unforgivingly linked to the lighting changes – and – as far as this audience member could tell, there were no technical hitches at the first matinee. The characterisations were thoughtful, and the players’ use of British accents seemed fitting and unflawed. As Poopay, Karen Pattinson largely carried the show, but there was plenty of support from Jacqui Field as Ruella, and Dave Went as the sinister Julian Goodman. 

​It's worth mentioning that Dan Ferris's Reece also managed to fairly convincingly age 40 years during the drama. The actors in smaller roles, Laura Tate as Reece’s first wife, Jessica, and Michael Richmond as Harold, the hotel security guard, were also convincing.

This atypical thriller provoked many laughs, and gasps of horror, in the more suspenseful parts - and there were plenty of these. Harold’s role as casual observer to the unfolding drama was a worthy plot addition – yes … no spoilers here – you will have to see it yourself!

Communicating Doors plays until October 29, 2016