Tim Baros reviews The Curing Room, a new shocking and brutalistic play
Seven men, stripped naked, perform in the shocking and brutalistic The Curing Room, now playing at the Pleasance Theatre in London.
These men, all English actors, are literally exposed in the 90-minute play that will shock some, enthral others, but will leave the audience gasping at what their characters endure in the course of the show.
The Curing Room is not for the faint at heart, it includes scenes that you will have never seen performed on a theatre stage before. It's a form of theatre that pushes the boundaries between the actors' confidences and the audience's comfort levels.
It is 1944. Seven Soviet soldiers have been captured and imprisoned by the Nazis. They are held in a sort of "Curing Room", a room used to store and preserve meat. All of their possessions have been taken away, including their clothes, and they are totally abandoned by their captors.
It's just seven men, on a bare stage, who have to endure the pain and agony of being cold and hungry and facing certain death in a room that is several hundred yards below ground. And as these soldier's don't have their uniforms, they still follow the military structure that they were trained to do. But their dire circumstances lead several of them to defray from this and survival becomes the only thing that counts. And this survival includes hunger. Tempers flare, they fight, they tell stories, they sleep, they get sick. And after one of the soldiers dies, the rest of them have no choice but to resort to cannibalism. They initially wrestle with their conscience whether this is the right thing to do, but as they get weaker they realise this is the only way to survive. One by one they die, but will anyone be alive when it is time to be rescued?
The Curing Room stars seven men who are very brave to be naked on stage for the entire length of the show. But the intent is to see beyond the nudity and focus on what the men are going through. A few of the actors stand out — mostly Harvey Robinson as Senior-Lieutenant Harvey. He shows the most emotion and determination of all the men, but will be survive? Robinson looks like he will be perfect on Game of Thrones — he's got that steely, rough Nordic look and excellent acting ability.
Newcomer Matt Houston as Private Georgi is a revelation. He's young, tall and thin yet he comes into his own and turns out to be one the smartest. He's excellent. Thomas Holloway as Private Yura is also very good. He's a bit slow and is always asking about his mother, not realising that she's probably dead. Joao De Sousa has superbly directed a play, written, invented and created by David Ian Lee that succeeds in being horrific, violent, brutal yet different, imaginative and groundbreaking.
The rest of the cast's names need to be included in this review just because of their willingness to go expose themselves and their emotions on a theatre stage Will Bowden, John Hoye, Rupert Elmes, and Marlon Solomon.
The Curing Room is a bold and shocking play. It tells a story that many of us know about from history — mainly how the Nazi's imprisoned Jewish people, and others, and left them to die. And cannibalism was rampant in WW2 as forced starvation was a policy inflicted upon the people of the Soviet Union by Stalin.
As horrific as it sounds, it's reality.
The Curing Room is at The Pleasance Theatre, London