Review by David Munro
SEVEN Doors is a series of playlets about life,
death, despair, futility, frustration and general misanthropy
which, after 90 minutes, sent me out into the beautiful surroundings
of Chichester Festival theatre brow-beaten and careworn.
I must admit this was my first exposure to the works of Botho
Strauss, who, according to the explanatory note in the programme
is 'referred to in Germany - somewhat derogatorily - as ‘the
I must confess, the comparison escapes me. I agree that many
of Ayckbourn’s plays make much ado about very little, but
at least there is some semblance of reality and humour about his
characters, however farcically they may be presented.
If what is now being performed at Chichester is representative
of Herr Strauss’s work, I think Aykbourn is the one who
suffers a rather 'derogatory' comparison.
The same programme note also points out this is the first professional
production of a Botho Strauss play in England since 1996, which
can hardly apply to Ayckbourn.
The Seven Doors of the title loom ominously at the back
of the stage and open or shut meaningfully, or meaninglessly,
dependant on your view throughout what one might politely describe
as the action or inaction on stage.
For lethargy, both mental and physical, seems to be order of
the day. A wedding couple may or may not have informed their friends
of the wedding; a man may or may not have got his quiz question
correct; a suicide finds the afterlife consists of a man in a
purple suit who has no interest in him - and so on.
The presence of the doors being explained,
if I understood correctly, as their being there to represent the
fact that man does not know what option of escape he has from
his way of life, and so is compelled to proceed aimlessly, as
it unfolds (or something of the sort )
I can understand that this type of Nihilism, which was fashionable
last century, might still attract Avante Garde theatre clubs in
the more obscure parts of Britain, but to find it in Chichester,
as part of a Festival dedicated to plays with the theme 'Out of
This World', in company with happy and lovely productions of The
Dream, Just So and an eponymous Cole Porter
musical, is a little surprising.
Although the playlets did have a sort of Pinteresqe/ Peter Cook
feel about them, they lacked the wit and style of the pointless
sketches of which those two authors were masters.
I felt, too, that the players were having a hard time of it and
it seemed, at times, as though they were saying their lines in
the hope that, even if they didn’t understand them, the
audience just might.
Martin Duncan’s direction did the best he could with the
material he had, but failed to convince this member of the audience
that he was putting over effectively whatsoever point the author
was attempting to make with these essays of futility.
I appreciate it is the aim of the festival to present plays from
all walks of theatre, but on this occasion I have to agree heartily
with Noel Coward that 'Ninety minutes is a long, long, time'.
Seven Doors by Botho Strauss. Director, Martin Duncan;
Designer, Ashley Martin-Davis; Lighting, Sam Gibbons; Sound, Gregory
CAST: Daniel Abelson; Julie Barnes; Steven Beard; George Couyas;
Sophie- Louise Dann; Fiona Dunn; Kieran Hill; Chris Jarman; Darlene
Johnson; Stephen Ventura.
Minerva Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Oatlands Park
Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6AP.
Box Office Tel: - 012843 7813112
In repertory until September 29, 2004.