Cubicle Four

Sat 18th – Mon 27th August 2012

reviews

Sukhmani Khatkar

at 10:35 on 19th Aug 2012

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'Cubicle Four' documents a “day in the life” of a solitary hospital cubicle set in an ever busy Accident and Emergency department. Three stories are brought to our attention: a grandmother and grandson experience some belated emotional bonding, two foster brothers explore the limits of their “brotherly” connection and a wife reflects on her longings for companionship as her husband lies unresponsive and comatose.

Of course, this delivers some truly touching moments. It is the simplicity of documenting situations characterised by sheer 'ordinary-ness' and then unearthing the rawest of emotions that make it partly successful. Indeed, 'Cubicle Four' is thematically driven by the concept of truth; the desperation induced by the four walls of a hospital treatment room prompts somewhat unformatable and yet moving honesty. Thus, in terms of its originality and setup, 'Cubicle Four' has seemingly limitless scope to engage audiences with its humour, sensitivity and sheer, well, normality.

However, the show is, at times, beset by a series of difficulties. Whilst there is potential to explore the boundaries of emotion, perhaps this device is somewhat overplayed. By attempting to squeeze what felt like mini emotional rollercoasters into each and every section, some of its realism was undermined. For example, Cat Nicol’s character, the somewhat troubled wife, goes from seemingly placid to tormented and incandescent with rage in a matter of seconds. Whilst I appreciate the challenge of delivering insightful theatre in a significantly short period of time the rapidity of this emotional change-up only served to make this particular scene all but believable. Surely, you aren’t going to wait a decade (for this is how long said husband had been comatose) before you deliver the sincerest of emotional outpourings? Similarly, Robert Maurice Brown and Lorraine Barker’s portrayal of a grandmother and grandson’s relationship went from fractious to highly emotionally charged in similarly swift fashion, yet again serving to undermine the natural simplicity of these relationships.

'Cubicle Four' presents audiences with an intriguing idea; truths and honesty when people are supposedly at their most emotionally fragile. However, rather than attempt to deliver a trio of individual 'mini dramas', it would have done better to flesh out the simplicity of each situation with attempting to force honesty where it wasn’t required.

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Thomas Brada

at 10:44 on 19th Aug 2012

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'Cubicle Four' is an interesting piece of theatre, set in a busy hospital bay, which certainly has a lot of the right ideas but requires some minor to drastic surgery. The performance is split into three mini-shows, in each of which a pair of increasingly dysfunctional folk come to occupy the titular cubicle four hospital bed. This concept is the strongest element of the piece as the writer has hit upon an interesting idea; the sterile cubicle is seriously lacking in charm and personality, yet every one of its occupants has an interesting story to tell - all the more so because of the fact that they find themselves in hospital. Unfortunately, I found the setting to be the pinnacle of the show itself, which is rather let down by some sloppy scripting and performances which require more energy and emotional input than is possible in the restricted time period.

The initial pair of a grumbling granny with a dodgy hip and her bumbling, young-adult grandson is immediately amusing simply because of the contrast between their appearances and outlooks on life. Following their entrance, the script unfortunately lets the cast down with a flurry of clichés and predictabilities; we all know grannies like to repeat themselves but as soon as granny repeats "don't kid a kidder" for the fifth time in five minutes, I'd certainly stopped kidding around. The actors try their best to inject some gravity into the piece, but the rate at which the script attempts to escalate the emotional drama is so forced that the piece loses most of its profundity. The same can unfortunately be said for the other two pieces, which also lapsed into melodrama because of the furious pace with which the script seeks to develop an emotional climax.

The second piece involves a blood-spattered brotherly duo, whose difficult upbringing supposedly drew them towards the murkier side of life. We meet the men post 'robbery-gone-wrong' and watch them reminisce about their troubled, intertwined past while they also attempt to patch together a flimsy alibi. The acting in this piece was certainly the best of the performance as they managed to incorporate a tone of sarcasm and cynicism which the rest of the piece desperately lacks. The final piece unfortunately was the point at which the production lapsed into the slightly ridiculous. The script attempts to summarise the ten year misery of a woman married to a ten year coma victim, into a ten minute piece, and inevitably it descends into the furthest realms of the OTT.

In fairness to the performers, it is nigh impossible to go from emotional 0 to 60 in so little time. The play seeks to be gritty and profound and devices such as the amplification of authentic sounding ambulance calls do work quite effectively. However, as each piece attempts to cram intense emotional revelation into 15 short minutes, the plausibility and the performances begin to wane. I left the theatre with a sense of disappointment as I felt that the show would benefit from eliminating one of the mini acts and allowing two of the pieces to develop into fully-formed pieces of theatre. A smart idea performed with plenty of effort but lacking the real class of a professional show.

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