Debut Festival Review: In Camera

Who goes there?

Lukifer XIX, reporting for duty.

State your purpose, young Lukifer.

Here we have In Camera by Jean Paul Sartre, directed by Ailish Leavy.

What’s it all about?

The play is about many things, but first and foremost it is a play about humans, and their ongoing search for meaning which ultimately never really gets fulfilled. Set in hell, the play revolves around Joseph Garcin, Inés Serrano, and Estelle Rigault as they deconstruct their past misdemeanours in an attempt to figure out how and why they have all ended up in this strange room together.

Sounds intriguing.

Indeed, it is. As we enter the dark realms of the Samuel Beckett Theatre, the stage is a striking visual comprised of Anya Kozina’s bold set design lit perfectly by David Doyle’s well-measured lights, making for a suitably stark but playful imagining of hell, which successfully manages to steer clear of cliché. The design choices were so impressive, successfully creating this playful visual element to contrast the still, sometimes contained nature of the text. The play itself is a careful examination of three people and their past wrong doings, which has resulted in them being sent to this strange place without any explanation. Interestingly, Leavy chose to avoid putting focus on the more philosophical issues of existence and meaning the play poses, instead opting to present it in a more stylised fashion, possibly appealing to a more contemporary audience.

Go on..

We begin with the threateningly upbeat Valet (played with suitable aplomb by Colm Gleeson) escorting each character into hell, failing to tell them the reason they have ended up here. This results in an intense dialogue between the three characters, where their toxic psyches begin to surface, irking one another as the play progresses. The acting in the piece was particularly strong, and the relationships between all three characters never faltered in their palpable intensity. However, due to the contained and often still nature of the play, I did find my attention wavering during the less dramatically-inclined scenes. I suspect this was a more textually-based qualm though, as opposed to the production itself, which made every effort to avoid losing focus in the instances when the stakes were low. Leavy managed to impressively move past the dense text of the play and avoid cliché at all costs, and the fun was really heightened by Colm Summers’ ingenious costume design, which packs a real punch. The production is a carefully constructed portrait of human experience, but what really emerges from Leavy’s production is a focus on the relationships within this room, and the question of whether anything is even real in the first place.

Would you recommend?

I certainly would. In Camera is an extremely well-measured production by Ailish Leavy that manages to update Sartre’s fascinating text with interesting design and a re-imagined context. Definitely worth checking out.

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