[author-post-rating] (3/5 Stars)
The Assembly 1 Theatre was shamefully under-attended for The Waiting Room. Dyad Productions’s enthralling drama refuses to take itself too seriously, despite its heavy subject matter. The play is toe-curlingly farfetched but it is also weirdly fascinating.
Set in Nigeria, where the play originates, it follows four characters who meet under Cluedo-like circumstances; all of them have been summoned to the same location by a hand-written note, the signed initials of each note combining to spell “DESTINY”. As they await further instructions, things get slightly supernatural, prompted by a chilling song with the lyrics “blood will run down the streets tonight”. From here onwards, two seemingly-unrelated plot strands unfold side by side with the same four characters featuring in both, as though their paths are crossing in parallel universes.
At first glance, the characters all seem typecast. One is a Lagos hoodlum, another is a poker-faced femme fatale, there is a professional businessman and a fiery middle-class woman. As the stories evolve it becomes clear that all of them are just as capable of cunning, guile and even murder as each other.
The play has four acts, with each character taking it in turns to provide a monologue after every act. These monologues draw upon metaphysics, diverse cultural fables and even Italian-American gangster movies in order to explore numerous subjects, ranging from the unknown workings of the cosmos to the value of so-called “street smarts”. As well as offering insight into the worldview of the speaking character, these asides shed some light on the act just gone, and on the methodical madness of the play’s erratic framework. Some events in this play are the logical result of cause-and-effect within the plot, some are preposterously random.
Unsurprisingly for a play with deals with themes of being and purpose, the set design is minimalist, consisting only of the plastic chairs from the initial waiting room and the occasional impromptu prop gun. That literally anything could be about to happen, at any point, is the source of much silliness. Think Harold Pinter, Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, all caught in a Mexican-standoff.
Audiences are used to trusting that there is an invisible structure holding everything together, set to all make sense in the end. Yet this play dares to do the opposite. It surrounds itself in deliberate mystique so that it is impossible to guess what might happen next. This can occasionally seem affected and exasperating, but for the most part it is just fun.
The Waiting Room is playing until 26 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.