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A CurtainUp London London Review
Communicating Doors

"Maybe, if you were a bit more reasonable - perhaps he's change his mind - about murdering you." — Poopay
Communicating Doors
David Bamber as Julian and Rachel Tucker as Poopay (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Alan Ayckbourn's 1994 comedy is cleverly constructed with a time travelling theme as this prolific playwright shows how he is fascinated by form. Three women get the opportunity to view their own future and for two of them, the way in which they are murdered. For the third, we see her in imminent danger as she is pursued by the murderer.

Set in the same hotel suite over a period of 40 years, in the opening scene set in 2020, Poopay (Rachel Tucker) has been hired for her dominatrix skills to entertain an elderly gentleman Reece (Robert Portal). The door to the hotel suite is opened by Julian (David Bamber) Reece's sinister business partner. Whereas Poopay is expecting to use the handcuffs, berate and tie up her client, he wants to tie up other matters and get her to witness his confession to his part in Julian's murder of Reece's first two wives.

When Poopay runs away from the very scary Julian, through a communicating door she finds herself in the same hotel room with Reece's second wife Ruella ( a stellar Imogen Stubbs) twenty years before. The explanations are difficult, not helped by Harold (Matthew Cottle) an officious hotel head porter. But Poopay has travelled back 20 years to the year 2000 where she is only 13.

Imogen Stubbs is magnificent as the upper class wife and I found her acting exceptionally impressive with many small and light touches of humour. I did however find her bobbed wig terrible.

Through the same communicating door Ruella finds herself in the same suite with a young Reece, clever acting from Robert Portal, on honeymoon with new wife and later victim number one Jessica (Lucy Briggs-Owen). It is 1980.

The first act is overly long but a hilarious second act sees all three women together in the falling off the balcony scene to challenge all balcony scenes. For much of this scene I was looking at the derriere of one woman as in a heap of bodies, she attempts to hang on to the other two.

I remember David Bamber as a mealy mouthed Mr Collins in a BBC Pride and Prejudice serialization, but I don't think I've ever seem him play an out and out villain and he is truly chilling. This is Rachel Tucker's first non-singing role and her first since starring in Sting's musical The Last Ship in New York, She handles the Cockney accent, the threat from Julian in a scene inspired by Psycho and the final transformation well.

There are some lively costume changes with Julian and Harold reflecting earlier days with very funny wigs reflecting the styles of the era. Richard Kent's set has the anonymity of a generic hotel room with the bathroom wall cut away and the bedroom out of view. There is thrilling music to accompany the action.

This play sees all three women empowered to change their destiny with the benefit of knowledge aforethought. If only . . .

For Les Gutman's review of this play in 1998 go here.

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Communicating Doors
Written by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Lindsay Posner

Starring: Imogen Stubbs, Rachel Tucker, David Bamber, Robert Prtal, Matthew Cottle and Lucy Briggs-Owen
Designer: Richard Kent
Composer: Matthew Scott
Lighting: Jason Taylor
Fight Director: Terry King
Sound: Davy Ogilvy
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office 020 7378 1713
Booking to 27th June 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 13th May 2015 performance at the Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU (Rail/Tube: London Bridge)
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