The Curing Room

David Ian Lee

Stripped Down Productions

Pleasance Dome

From 30 July 2014 to 25 August 2014

Rating: *****

Review by Liam Blain

Seven naked men, cannibalism and a story of desperation, hope and deception. David Ian Lee’s The Curing Room combines beauty and shock to provide a heart-wrenching, eye-watering production.  

As Stripped Down Productions' first piece, The Curing Room has certainly set their standard extremely high. Based on a true story, the play tells the tale of seven soviet soldiers who are stripped of their clothing, belongings and dignity by the Nazis and are chucked into an abandoned cellar to wait on death.

With no food, water or purpose for living, the animal instinct takes over and we watch as men are picked off one by one and devoured by their fellow comrades.

All of these men come from very different backgrounds and all are differently decorated within the military. However, with the lack of uniform to distinguish this, this production really strips back the constraints that everyday life throws at us and makes us see the world in a primitive and animalistic state.

Philip Lindley’s set and David Howe’s lighting help depict this sparseness brilliantly. Lindley’s simple sloped grey square floor with Howe’s minimalist white lighting really add to the desolation of the piece.

The seven soldiers are beautifully portrayed by a group of stunning actors, who have each evidently taken time to look at their characters and have developed them into fully rounded, interesting individuals. The novelty of no clothing quickly wears off, and the audience is made to encompass the stark bareness of the situation, creating a harrowing scene from the outset.

On hearing of the cannibalistic element to the production, it was a worry that the creative team could have allowed for a contrived, over-acted portrayal of what is really very harrowing for all involved. On the contrary, Joao de Sousa’s direction conveys the men feasting on the body parts of their colleagues as a painful and traumatic experience.

Rupert Elmes must be commended for his short-lived but extremely important portrayal as Captain Victor Nikolov, as his fear of leadership and dread of death in the first few scenes of the play are so important in creating the anxiety the audience feels for the remainder of the production.

The Curing Room is a must-see at this year’s Fringe. Do not be put off by the nudity disclaimer and take a tissue.