Don't Go Outside

Devised by the company and scripted by Victoria Gibson

Twenty Seven Productions

The Castle Keep, Newcastle

From 23 October 2017 to 05 November 2017

Review by Peter Lathan

We climb the steep stone stairs to reach the first level of the Castle Keep (which was built by Henry II in the 1170s) where a member of the Castle staff checks our tickets and directs us to a kind of anteroom in which refreshments are on sale and there are displays relevant to the Castle and its place in the Border country between England and Scotland.

There’s also a lot of noise: distorted, unrecognisable sounds with the suggestion of a human voice occasionally. We stand or explore while two grim-faced men, hoods over their heads, carry boxes to and fro, coming from and vanishing into archways leading off the room we’re in. One seems to be continually muttering under his breath.

Then we are directed up a short spiral staircase into the Great Hall. No one accompanies us. There are seats on three sides, so we sit down. The noise is just as loud here as it was before but now there are what seem to be explosions added to the mix. The boxes the men were carrying are on the floor.

Also on the floor is a girl. She’s obviously unconscious but she’s breathing. She has a bloody head wound and injuries to her arm too.

We sit and wait.

Then the two men enter with more boxes. The tall one—who is still muttering to himself—slams the door and barricades it. We are shut in with them.

We never do find out what’s going on outside; there’s mention of Kim Jong Un and the Koreans, of the Russians, of evacuation and quarantine—no one actually seems to know.

But that doesn’t matter because the play is not about the outside world but rather what is happening in this large, cold, stone room between these three people under the pressure of the unknown threats from outside.

James (Christopher Price), the mutterer, is religious, obsessively—even insanely—religious, and he has taken control. Sam (Luke Maddison) could almost be described as an Everyman, willing to be led but wanting to do the right thing. He is full of sympathy for the girl. She (Victoria Gibson) has no memory of what happened before she woke up in this room. What memories she does have are of personal things before the events which led up to her trauma.

The setting is the Great Hall, the place where we are seated, and, although it is undoubtedly atmospheric, it does present a couple of problems. It’s brightly and quite warmly lit (the normal lighting which visitors to the Keep experience every day) but this production would have benefited greatly from a much lower, more shadowy, colder light—although whether that would be possible without bringing in a lighting rig operating independently of the in-house lighting I don’t know.

The other problem is the acoustic. The combination of the size of the room, especially its great height, and the stone surfaces produces a reverberation which can, depending on the volume and speed of speaking, make speech unclear. It’s a credit to the cast’s clarity of diction that this did not happen very often.

Director Corinne Kilvington judges the pace nicely and all three actors are convincing. There are moments of anguish and moments of pathos, but there are also explosive moments and at the end, when the lights just snap out and then come on again with the cast all gone from the room, the audience sat stunned and unsure of what to do until we were beckoned to leave, which we did in almost total silence.