Every year we see the emergence of new, student-led theatre companies hoping to make a name for themselves in the area and potentially beyond. This time it was the turn of Sliding Doors Theatre with its presentation of the innovative Into Chains.
Written by the company’s founder, Rowen Hughes, and taking inspiration from Euripides’ Medea, the play centres around heavily depressed mum of one, Lexi, during arguably the most difficult period of her life so far. This focus is countered by interludes of the protagonist’s life, the majority of which surround her relationship with now ex-husband, Matt. As Lexi’s wellbeing deteriorates, so does her rapport with those around her, culminating in her decision to murder Harry, her fourteen-year-old son.
Alongside Eve Walton, Hughes also co-directed the production, and it was a solid attempt from the duo overall. For starters, setting the piece in the present day was an excellent choice. It made the characters highly relatable which given the sizeable proportion of society suffering from mental illness currently, was an excellent decision. Somewhat a rarity for Alec Clegg performances, I also admired the use of curtains to form wings down either side of the stage due to the added intimacy it brought to the space.
A major negative, however, was that some scenes had been blocked so far downstage with the actors on the floor, meaning the views of several spectators on multiple occasions throughout the performance became temporarily restricted. I thought the piece’s structure was additionally questionable with most major plot developments such as Lexi’s unplanned pregnancy and her friends’ attempts to take a vulnerable Harry from her occurring after the interval.
Franky Lynn’s portrayal of the present-day Lexi was superb. Her illustration of the character’s decline was sensitive and combined a compulsion to cling onto memories which once made her so contented with a lethargy seemingly resultant of the numerous troubles Lexi’s had to face up to.
Composed specifically for Into Chains by Jacob Zinzan Tressider, the use of live music was a welcome addition to the production. Its sullen yet pleasant quality typified Lexi’s mind and thus fitted wonderfully with the character’s speech – it gave it an almost rhythmical feature.
Regarding the actors, Franky Lynn’s portrayal of the present-day Lexi was superb. Her illustration of the character’s decline was sensitive and combined a compulsion to cling onto memories which once made her so contented with a lethargy seemingly resultant of the numerous troubles Lexi’s had to face up to. Lynn was very engaging throughout her monologues as well.
Clare Jones, as Lexi’s past-self, started incredibly brightly, depicting the innocence and sprightly nature of a newly enrolled university student with ease. In the more hostile scenes, comparatively, Jones failed to perform to the same standard as she struggled in her efforts to communicate the necessary emotions.
Personally, I found this to be quite a moving piece of theatre with a highly explosive conclusion. While some elements could have been amended, on the whole, this was a promising debut from Sliding Doors Theatre.
(Image courtesy of Sliding Doors Theatre)
Luke Prowse Baldwin