The dark themes explored in the script and direction of In/Out (A Feeling) possess such a level of authenticity, it is only once you leave the theatre that they truly resonate. As I travelled home after the performance, my thoughts were haunted by the realisation that behind the closed doors of such a wonderful city there is also so much exploitation and horror. Directed by Niall Phillips for Lonesome Schoolboy Productions, the show is supported by Unseen, a charity working towards a world without slavery and supporting those affected by it.
As audience members are seated, a girl is sat in the centre of the space on what appears to be a bed. Doused in red light, she is in a tight blue dress and surrounded by packets of baby wipes. She looks unsettled and we are unsettled in turn. Hanging from the ceiling are buckets of white powder and red material as a repetitive soundscape is played. The intimacy of the Hope Theatre teamed with the in-the-round setting makes the room feel claustrophobic, as the young girl begins speaking about how she ended up as a sex worker. The interaction between performer and audience members feels too close, too real. The brutal honesty is uncomfortable but necessary and continues throughout.
The piece interlinks and overlaps monologues by coke-snorting lad Ollie (Nicholas Clarke) and sex worker Blue (Alex Reynolds). The two share a common feeling that they can’t quite articulate, but they are trapped, suffocated and unable to control the lives they are existing in. They are entangled in a web of repetition, where every move they make creates “no sensation, just feeling”.
What is so powerful about Andrew Maddock’s script is that his use of rhythm, rhyme and repetition make such horrific situations seem ordinary, as we see this world through the eyes of people who live in it. We gain an insight into the repetitive nature of these characters’ lives and terrible events become normal and routine. Events are not over-dramatised and no shock tactics are used: there is no complicated plot line and no happy ending. The world being shown to us is one that is completely normal for the two characters and for so many people around the world. This feeling of normality is what makes the show so haunting; events such as these should never be normal and should never be ok.
In/Out (A Feeling) is totally gripping and both actors are outstanding in their delivery. An important show to see and one that will linger in your mind for a long time.
In/Out (A Feeling) is playing at The Hope Theatre until 30 January. For more information and tickets, see The Hope Theatre website. Photo Tom Webb.