EFR - Reviews of In Control

In Control

Sun 3rd – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Amy Peters

at 02:08 on 10th Aug 2014

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Apparently it turns out that when Saw comes to the stage it results in nothing more than an overabundance of whimpering and heavy breathing. Which is a great shame. The general premise behind Alex Hargreaves’ creation is an interesting one: bring the nail-biting tension of the traditional horror film to the arresting immediacy of the stage, hopefully in order to see all of the suspense and fear amplified by the proximity of the audience to the gruesome humanity in front of us. However, In Control simply didn’t deliver in that regard. What could have been a truly intense and unsettling experience if done well simply turned out to be an hour of drawn-out pauses and panting.

In an expertly lit and assembled stage – I fear it speaks volumes when a production’s greatest feature is its lighting – we are thrown into the confusing midst of what appears to be a hostage situation, though neither us nor the characters become fully aware of this until some time later. There is often a fear of silence in many productions, particularly in such intimate settings as The Paradise in the Vault; performers often feel the need to hurry through onto the next phase of the dialogue without letting the previous section breathe.

However, In Control took this notion too far in the opposite direction resulting in very long and drawn-out scenes of nothing but a hunched and whimpering cast for the audience to ponder. I can see how this could have resulted in a deeply chilling piece of theatre, but the lack of engagement and empathy I felt towards the characters lent these sections a sense of detachment and boredom instead. I was shuffling in my seat rather than perched on the edge of it.

Each of the hostages demonstrated that they are more than capable of doing an adequate job of depicting the terrified and tortured victim. However, it became abundantly clear early on that a repetitive and lacklustre script combined with a lack of any meaningful back story to the characters severs the possibility of the audience engaging with and relating to the violent action before us.

I could see that Amy Morgan was doing a fine job as Alex, a helpless hostage victim, I just quite honestly didn’t care.

In short, I appreciate what Airborne Theatre were trying to with In Control. It just, quite simply, didn’t really work. The acting was decent, the lighting and staging were innovative and really well executed, but the script failed to build the suspense and tension that a show of this kind absolutely relies on. Time is precious at the Fringe, I recommend you spend yours elsewhere until Airborne Theatre can polish and perfect this original and innovative idea.

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Millie Morris

at 09:42 on 10th Aug 2014

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'In Control', a drama promising a 'unique theatrical experience' which will force its audience to align themselves with characters and the difficult decisions that they face, certainly provides the intensity it says it will. This piece of new writing from Aireborne Theatre sees three characters locked in a mystery room at the mercy of three captors who will spite, threaten and assault them.

Whilst the tension between stage and audience is rarely broken, the play is let down somewhat by a lack of twist, and predictability incurs about three-quarters of the way through. However, there is some strong acting and interesting ideas at work here, with a team that fills the intimate space with all the neck-breathing, spine-chilling intensity it aims for.

Alex, (Amy Morgan) Hayley (Lily Hall) and James, (Joe Featonby) our protagonists, are all considered morally corrupt: we discover that each of them have committed wrongdoings in the line of drugs, murder and theft. The cold, laconic voices of their captors act as some kind of ironic moral enforcers, treating like with like and forcing those at hostage to make decisions against their will. I cannot say that I find myself wondering what I'd do in each specific character's shoes, but I suppose that being forced to choose the mortal fate of somebody else is an end-of-the-world situation we have all thought about at one point or another.

We are led to sympathise with our characters, yet I cannot help but feel their back-stories need to be more fleshed out; a mere mention of events which assign the labels 'dealer', 'murderer' and 'thief' to them are not quite sufficient to create a convincing history for the characters.

This is nothing quite like Pinter, but this play is studded with pregnant pauses. These create an uneasy tension throughout, and whilst potentially risking a slow pace, manage to cast the characters' despair onto the audience. Amy Morgan as Alex is particularly good as she squirms, screams and spits her way through the play, reminding us that this sinister situation is one unlikely to be remedied. The cool-voiced captors which lurk in the dark are equally chilling, their moods flitting from terrifying to mildly threatening as they sway in time to the always-ominous rollercoaster of emotion experienced by each character, fearing for their lives at all costs.

Although there is some thought-provoking material and consistent acting here, the play falls short slightly in its richness of detail and lack of surprises. I hope for a V for Vendetta style twist which gives us the answers we hope for, and am disappointed. Generally speaking however, this is a stark, interesting production, presenting to us a unique scenario which prompts the question as to how you would behave when decisions and mortal freedom are no longer within your control.

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