I am always curious to view anything with a 'shock factor' so when my cousin and actress Madeline Appiah described 'In The Next Room' at St.James Theatre as a bit 'full on' my ears pricked up! Immediately I grabbed my good friend Annie and waltzed down to the theatre to view it as her and I are always searching for things that push boundaries and make our jaws drop! Little did I know that the play would not only shock me, but also move me unexpectedly in a way no other play has done before.
What is 'In The Next Room' about?
The play is set in late 19th-century New York State during the excitement around the creation of the electric light bulb. At that same time Dr Givings has created his own electrical device which relaxes women or ‘treats them from female hysteria’ (being an overly emotional female was seen as an illness in those times). Little does Givings know that this device he has created is what is seen today as the vibrator!
Meanwhile Dr Givings’s rather frustrated wife, Catherine (played by ex-‘Hollyoaks’ star Natalie Casey), is longing for attention from her husband, who is very innocently engrossed in his work.
How is this all Explored?
Although the play is all about sex and intimacy, it does not contain an ounce of sleaziness. Dr Givings himself is unaware that the device he has created has a sexual purpose and the characters who receive the treatment just see it as a cure and a form of relaxation. The repeated orgasm scenes that occur aren’t too uncomfortable to watch as the characters aren’t even aware that what they are experiencing is an orgasm.
It also opens up the opportunity for great comedy. The treatment makes one married lady realise she is only into women while a male customer uses a device for the ‘rare’ form of ‘male hysteria’ - but I won’t tell you where they stick the device to cure his hysteria!
Alongside laughter there are also scenes of sadness and heartache. Madeline plays Elizabeth, a lady who has just lost her baby but is paid for her milk to be used for the Givings’s new-born child. (Mrs Givings has trouble producing milk for her baby, adding to her loneliness and frustration.) The first time she is handed the baby to feed, Elizabeth gets very tearful. The silence as she feeds and weeps is very powerful. I felt the audience sigh and feel pain for the character.
What bizarrely and unexpectedly touched me was the ending, which was also the most outrageous part of the play. I would love to tell you what happens but I do not want to give it away to those who have yet to watch it. I must say both Annie and I were very shocked, but finally satisfied that they had decided to take the play this far.
As the curtains closed I was still gobsmacked and laughing about what I had just seen, but I also got teary eyed as Mrs Givings finally reached the happiness she has longed for throughout the play. Usually I am not one for soppy love stories and I did not realise that I had become emotionally attached to Mrs Givings until this unsentimental and crazy scene somehow managed to tug at my heart strings.
Outstanding acting from Natalie Casey - in fact, I could not fault any of the actors in this play and I would strongly recommend everybody go see it. I would love to hear the thoughts of those of you who have on my FB page.
Book tickets HERE
Sazrah is a UK music producer who has composed music for BBC 1xtra, Film, Catwalk and famous artists. Her blogs are about upcoming artists, music industry tips and general chit chat!