On entering a space that is already small and dark, to find it is full of TV screens reflecting the audience back at themselves, makes the room smaller still, and claustrophobic with it. What Goes On In Front of Closed Doors is a one woman show examining the life of Molly who, due to a number of events, ends up homeless living on the street. The piece is both funny, moving and at times, frightening.
The action is fast paced, beginning in 2012 and concluding four years later; we meet a young girl in the throes of puberty, preoccupied with the amount of hair on her arms, and watch her mental health deteriorate following the death of her mother. It’s a challenging piece in principle, let alone the fact that the journey is told first person; Emma Bentley claws her way through almost every emotion imaginable by the conclusion of the play. It is fascinating, exhausting and exciting to watch. In her lighter moments, Bentley is reminiscent of a young Isy Suttie, all teenage awkwardness and frank storytelling. However as the plot unfolds and we see Molly’s life and psychological state unravelling the character becomes fragmented, frenetically flitting from one emotion to the next. The loneliness and isolation is heartbreaking, the extreme behaviour deeply unsettling, and the loss of dignity frustrating. Bentley attacks the role with a ferocious intensity which is impressive, especially since she only has the text to interact with.
The play is not your standard extended monologue however. The use of technical devices serves to enhance and highlight key moments and themes within the piece. During the play, the screens depict events from Molly’s childhood, pick up angles on the stage captured on camera and add lighting effects to different scenes. It’s a simple but effect way of contributing to atmosphere and guiding the audience’s focus to things they may otherwise miss. Particularly memorable is the first time we are transported to Molly’s mother’s house after she has passed away. The way we are able to view the house, together with Bentley’s performance depicting how Molly feels about being there, is so vulnerable and tragic. The set is simple; a small set of drawers, a chair, a suitcase and some basic props. Any scene changes are dealt with in role by Bentley, and the smooth transitions and changes in location are wholly believable. It’s a slick production, into which the music and sound fit perfectly in supporting transitions and heightening the already palpable tension.
“What Goes On In Front of Closed Doors” is a bold piece of writing which forces us to consider how destructive the loss of one’s support network can be, and one thing is for sure, it’ll be impossible not to think twice when faced with homelessness in the real world now.
A harrowing and poignant look at a very real issues in these times.