THE QUIET ROOM
24/09/2015 - 03/10/2015
Marianne is turning sixteen, the age of consent, and she wants to celebrate. But she’s got cancer and her mum wants her to risk everything on one last-ditch treatment.
The Quiet Room is a drama (with a splash of dark comedy and teen romance) that explores the ethics of medical treatment: who knows what’s best for the patient?
It’s about opportunities, courage and the question: what does it mean to grow up, and how do you decide to live?
WINNER OF PLAYMARKET’S PLAYS FOR THE YOUNG (TEENS) 2014
$2 from every ticket sold goes to benefit CanTeen, an organisation supporting young people living with cancer. A Gala Night will be held on Wed 30 September where the majority of funds raised will go to CanTeen.
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
bats.co.nz, 04 802 4175
24 Sep – 3 Oct, 2015
Isobel Mebus - Actor
Stevie Hancox-Monk - Actor
Vanessa Rhodes – Actor
Nick Zwart – Set design
Thomas Lambert – Sound design
Jeremy Larkin – Lighting design/image design
Holly Osten – Production/Stage Manager
Kasey Collins – Publicity/Photography/image design
Owen McCarthy – Image photography
Emotional rollercoaster sensitively captured
Review by Ewen Coleman 02nd Oct 2015
The greatest anguish for any parent come when their child falls sick. But when the illness is terminal then this becomes intensified, almost beyond belief. How do they deal with it, how does the child cope and what of the carers, the doctors involved in treating the illness? These are the questions canvassed in Renee Liang’s excellent new play The Quiet Room, currently playing at Bats Theatre.
The child is question is Marianne (Stevie Hancox Monk) who has suffered from leukaemia for most of her life. She has had two unsuccessful bone marrow transplants and a decision is being made about a third, three days before her 16th birthday. Part of the preparation for this involves going into a sterile isolation room, the Quiet Room. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
An enriching experience
Review by John Smythe 25th Sep 2015
It’s a primary value of theatre that plays give us, the audience, access to lives outside our own experience. In order to play the present actions of characters with pasts and future objectives, actors align to the given circumstances and ask “If I …?” / “What if …?” / “What’s so?” / “So what?” … Then we get to imagine ourselves into the characters’ lives and ask the same questions.
When we have shared similar experiences, we recognise as well as empathise, and may even relitigate the choices we’ve made – or might make – in reality. And we gain a better understanding of how it is for others. This is how audiences participate, emotionally, intellectually and even spiritually, in a well-wrought play.
(Sorry if I’m stating the bleeding obvious. It’s just that quite a lot of recent theatre, while often valid in its own way, doesn’t have these dimensions. I just feel it’s worth reminding ourselves of them, lest we forget why they work or lest we take their value for granted.)
Renee Liang’s The Quiet Room is well wrought with the above qualities. A hospital bed in which a pale slip of a girl is sleeping instantly establishes both location and situation as we take our seats. The light grey curtains and calming music settle the mood.
The play proper starts with a lively video-diary posting – the first of many – from soon-to-be-16 Marianne. This is her relatively private self (her Facebook friends are privy to it) as opposed to the relatively public self she reveals to Rachel, her mother, Elaine, her specialist and Philip, the teenage boy who is also in the cancer ward. Her relationships with each are distinctly different.
It gradually emerges that Marianne has had leukaemia most of her life, has endured two full bone marrow transplants (which is where the titular quiet room comes in) and now a third is in the offing. Although Rachel has been there for Marianne all along, she is not immune to the slings and arrows of teenage hormones. Marianne’s father is working in Silicon Valley and her brother is in the States too.
Elaine was in training when Marianne was first admitted and now is her lead specialist. Their long term familiarity allows them to challenge each other without the emotional baggage that families carry. And it’s Elaine who finally fesses up to the risk factors and reminds Marianne that 16 is the age of consent; that her mother is no longer in charge.
And so to 15 year-old Philip, whose osteosarcoma may leave him legless – and not in a way some teenage boys might experience. A stranger to Marianne, he nevertheless gets closest, physically, and provokes her self-expression in different ways.
Liang brings a significant twist to the standard dramatic form by having her two main characters – Marianne and Philip – drawn into action by the prospect of having no future at all or a severely compromised one. Are they ready to make adult decisions? What would we do?
Stevie Hancox Monk embodies Marianne totally and so anchors the whole play in profound credibility. Along with Liang and director Jane Yonge, she clearly understands every bit of Marianne and relishes every opportunity to manifest her idiosyncrasies as well as her every-day concerns.
As Philip, Michael Hebenton also gets to play in a state of being that mostly dances above the gravity of their situations. Being significantly older, both he and Hancox Monk capture their characters’ ages and stages with unforced veracity.
Isobel Mebus’s Rachel and Vanessa Rhodes’ Elaine are more grounded and somewhat limited by not having things to do other than be part of Marianne’s story. Certainly we are told that Rachel’s quest for a job is frustrating, and that Elaine – who strangely never takes her overcoat off – has buried herself in her profession at the expense of embracing other dimensions of life.
But nothing outside Marianne’s story, and the friction it causes between them, is vying for their attention within the actual action of the play. Despite intelligent and sensitive performances from Mebus and Rhodes, then, Rachel and Elaine don’t come alive as fully as Marianne and Philip.
Throughout the play Marianne plays tantalising musical snippets on her ukulele and while her whereabouts and fate are left in the air at the end of the play, she appears to give a beautiful rendition, in song, of a poem she has earlier ridiculed. (I think it is ‘Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep’ by Mary Elizabeth Frye but neither the poem nor its musical setting are credited in the programme.)
The Quiet Room certainly succeeds in sharing an experience beyond the lives the majority of us have lived – and we are all the richer for it.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer