The Processing Room

Elizabeth Baines
Eye of the Storm
24:7 Theatre Festival, Pure at The Printworks, Manchester
(2007)

The Processing Room

Set in the mysteriously named "processing room" in the depths of a Manchester hospital, Elizabeth Baines' new play is an interesting take on an old idea. Three women lose their way to appointments in the hospital and are found in the processing room by Nurse Seraphina, a celestial administrator who loses no time in breaking the bad news - all three have died and been sent to the room to account for themselves before being sent to the appropriate afterlife destinations. But is it a coincidence that all have similar life experiences? And where will the next stop on from the processing room really take them?

The problem with Baines' play is that it can't decide whether it is farce or black comedy, surreal or naturalistic. It plumps instead for a patchy mix-and-match of all four, interspersed with far too much exposition and not enough mystery, which fails to make the best of the strengths of writer, cast, or director. Only Nurse Seraphina's character and Tracy Gentles' subtly stylised, non-naturalistic direction currently catch the surreal/black humour vein, but a careful re-write could do so much more with the original idea - both the play and its director clearly have more to offer.

Reviewer: Louise Hill