On the black stage a small white square is marked out. Then the opening line, “which floor?” and instantly the play is ominous, foreboding. A man and a woman are trapped in a lift.
She (Jessica Macdonald) is immediately tense, hiding her growing panic with false smiles. She calls to the outside world. Then she shouts.
He (Paul Tinto) is calm. He rationalises that someone must know they are in there. He sits down and reads his paper.
She shuffles and fidgets with nervous, unconscious gestures. Her legs jitter, her body betrays the fear that her mind is trying to ignore.
He seems annoyed at her questions, at her agitation. Only occasionally does he try to reassure her. We will find out why.
Lights change and the sounds of the body, amplified in the small space, become percussive and rhythmic – clearing her throat, rubbing his hands, clicking her tongue, patting his thighs. The clicks and ticks are the noises of a clock, the seconds that they are wasting while trapped in the lift.
She has an ability to capture details of social interaction: little laughs, misplaced quips, seizing the banalities of small talk. She reverts periodically to shouting. Her voice starts to waver, to quiver, to crack. Her swelling panic, the moments of hysteria are frightening.
He hides his own distress behind a controlled demeanour, his behaviour conditioned and disciplined by the army. He is blank, cold.
Time only exists if we have clocks. Their phones are dead, they have no clock and so time disappears. Minutes stretch into infinities, hours pass in seconds and, as the ticks and clicks of their bodies speed or slow, madness takes hold.
Past traumas for both of them bleed into their present, maddening them until they are no longer themselves. Jason Hewitt’s play is about control: control over our environments, and over ourselves. And how terrifying it is when that control is lost.
Claustrophobia is at Zoo (Venue 124) until 25 August (not 18). For more information and tickets visit the EdFringe website.