Hell is other people.
An ordinary room; three sofas; three people who know they are in hell. They are doomed to suffer for eternity, and doomed to suffer consciously in every moment of Sartre’s extended one-act drama.
In a play where your companions are your torturers the focus is more than ever on the characters, and a more unseemly trio would be hard to find. Garcin is an intense and unacknowledged hypocrite, a pacifist without the corresponding morally substantive actions, whilst Estelle is a petulant, man-hungry socialite, guilty of murderous actions that seem incongruous with her polite exterior. Louisa Hollway plays a hauntingly disarming yet vicious Inez, driving those around her to suicide through jealousy and frightening bitterness.
Attempts to interact with one another vacillate from sexual advances, to intimidation, to empathy, but they are never predictable and never successful. The three constantly compete for an unattainable power where, ultimately, what is left unsaid and unexplained looms as the greatest power of all. This is reflected in the bare and unforgiving set, and surely yet further pronounced in the small, claustrophobic space of Frewin undercroft.
Will Bland’s production skillfully simulates the force of these painful interactions between characters. The emotional distance and cross-purpose is frustratingly maintained even within the intensity of their characters’ situation, for those who find torment, not solace, located in one another.