Once upon a time, some hapless individual seems to have told writer Alex Mills that he’s really bloody clever, and by God, I wish they hadn’t. Not that they were necessarily wrong – Mills writes with flair and initiative, and might have succeeded in creating a rather interesting and imaginative piece, had he not tumbled over his own ego on the way in.
‘Marketing Manager’ Alex Harris has done well to launch a cohesive and pervasive publicity campaign that harnesses all manner of media, social and otherwise, coupled with memorable posters by Sophie Stephenson-Wright. Before coming to see the play, they looked to me a little like something from the waiting room of one’s local mental health clinic. This is perhaps not totally inaccurate, for a play that was characterised to me by an overwhelming feeling of tiredness, and wanting to be able to leave my seat as quickly as possible.
Out Through The In Door is (quite apart from being an equally underwhelming album by psychedelic-heavy-metal quartet Vanilla Fudge) best described as an ambitious work. A ‘friend of the company’ had previously described it to me as a ‘meant to be a sort of mindfuck parody thing’, which was a helpful thing to have borne in mind.
Parody or no, the play lacks the blistering scorn of true satire, succeeding instead in being rather overwrought – not to mention an absolutely exhausting experience. I found myself at various points bored, disillusioned and entirely drained: while that may or may not be the ‘point’, this ‘bastard child of Pinter, Beckett and McDonagh’ lacks the spark or, dare I say it, soul to be worthy of such emotional malaise. At its best points, the tone is a little smug – at its worst, it’s downright self-satisfied. The laughs are there, on occasion, though many of them feel cheap, or underhand.
With a different director, cast and production team, I can say with absolute certainty that I would have got up and left. To Mills’ credit, though, he appears to have directed Pacitti and Lyons with skill and sensibility, making excellent use of the space available to him such that, visually, the piece is consistently interesting. The lighting works well too: in one especially stunning moment, Pacitti stands in the dark, outlined by a rather glorious yellow spotlight. The effect is terrific.
Pacitti and Lyons, though both extremely capable actors in their own right, are a less than ideal couple: Pacitti possesses a natural charm that makes his sudden lurches into rage feel a little insubstantial, while Lyons, even at his most wheedling and ‘affable’, never quite manages to shake off a sense of immanent misanthropy. On balance, though, they are both to be commended for excellent performances within the constraints of an extremely demanding script.
In short, then – before I am lambasted for being too harsh, this play has a number of redeeming features, though most of them lay outside of the script. I believe Mills to be an intelligent and witty writer, though one likely to improve with a few years in the cellar. Two thirds of the way through, Pacitti asks Lyons whether it’s over yet, and I found myself hoping for a response in the affirmative. Don’t take my word for it, though – if nothing else, Mills’ production provides genuine fodder for thought, and very nice lighting.