EFR - Reviews of Back Door

Back Door

Mon 18th – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Rowena Henley

at 20:10 on 19th Aug 2014

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Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Polis Loizou set out to write a comedy thriller of his own with surprisingly pleasant results. Back Door is the tale of a nosy neighbour landing herself in hot water after spying on some sinister goings on through the window across the courtyard.

Not only was this script impressive for its surface value, but also opened up deeper questions. The mechanisms of Loizou’s artful and considered writing meant that, as our protagonist sank herself deeper into a world of licentious and illegal activity, I found myself questioning the way in which we involve ourselves in others lives.

With an impressive amount of subtlety, this show asked the (often overlooked) question of when it is appropriate to engross yourself in someone else’s affairs, if ever? This play reminded us that we can never know the full picture, even if we think we do. We are always an onlooker. Always the person looking in through a window on the other side of the courtyard.

However, where the writing was sharp and insightful, the acting was a little rough around the edges. Every performer stumbled over their lines at one point or another, which seriously hindered the play’s flow and unintentionally collapsed the fourth wall. Loizou himself doubled up as a performer and it is fair to say that his talent pretty exclusively lies behind the keyboard. His comic timing is commendable at times, but on the whole our playwright seemed overwhelmed and uncomfortable being onstage.

Laura Louise Baker, the play’s central character, showed moments of real strength. She illustrated the brash and ballsy personality of her character very well, but would occasionally ham it up to a pantomime-esque level. Overall, I was most impressed by Jaacq Hugo, who took on an extremely complex character and handled it with remarkable ease. Hugo carried the style of ‘thriller’ almost entirely on his shoulders, and I actually found myself quite terrified when he spotted his spying neighbor across the patio.

The design aspect of the show was also noteworthy. Despite the set being a little mediocre (presumably down to a small budget), I found myself somewhat mesmerised by the black and white videos shown of Jaacq Hugo’s character Violette, a cross-dressing performance artist. There was a real beauty to these compilations.

Back Door is one of those gems of the Free Fringe that showcases undiscovered talent. The execution was a little off, but the writing and concept as a whole were truly compelling.

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Matthew Lavender

at 01:15 on 20th Aug 2014

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It is always deflating when an intriguing storyline is let down by a mediocre set of acting performances, which fail to do sufficient justice to an impressive script. This was unfortunately the case with Back Door, which was held back from being an excellent production by far too many stumbled-over lines and an inability to transport fascinating characters off the page and onto the stage.

Credit must certainly be given to writer Polis Loizou, who has turned out a terrific script full of depth, mystery and humour. On top of this, he has also created three multi-faceted and complex characters, which work superbly together and possess great potential to lead a truly captivating hour of mysterious drama.

Unfortunately, however, only one of these characters is depicted with any conviction. Laura Louise Baker puts in a stellar performance as leading lady Tabitha Montgomery, a perceptive journalist based in Paris and unable to work due to a broken foot. In spite of her injury, she still does all she can to investigate her new neighbour Violette (Jaacq Hugo) – a cross-dressing performance artist revered by many, including Tabitha’s American flatmate John Wesley – when she suspects her of murder.

Baker is superb, portraying her with all the confidence, self-assurance and gumption that her lines offer. Despite being a character with an ultra-determined will and takes-no-prisoners attitude, Baker succeeds in still making her relatable and approachable; you are more impressed by her strong personality than intimidated by it, and for striking this difficult balance Baker deserves a great deal of praise.

Unfortunately, the character of Wesley, played by writer Loizou, is much less convincingly portrayed, and you feel there is something missing in his rather neutral performance which, while comforting and friendly, leaves the character appearing rather one-dimensional, and lacking a depth that the script provides him.

The performance of Hugo as Violette is somewhat harder to judge, and a fair assessment would be to say that he grows into the role, initially appearing rather wooden and emotionless but becoming much more personable and connectable as the play progresses. It is hard, however, to avoid the feeling that Hugo had failed to maximise the potential of a character that offered so much.

On the whole, the show was a rather entertaining watch, but that was largely down to an excellent, thought-provoking script, and it was unable to reach the heights that it could have done due to some regrettably unconvincing performances.

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