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There is something undeniably creepy about ‘Closet Land – The Stage Play’, something sinister and altogether eerie, though, at the same time, incredibly eye-opening and dramatic. Growling Grin’s gritty and confronting production, which ran at the Bakehouse Theatre in Adelaide from 27 to 30 November 2013, is based on the 1991 cult classic film, written and directed by Radha Bharadwaj. With its simplistic set and nameless characters, the play illustrates an unnervingly realistic scenario that could occur at any time, in any place, and in any country.
A young children’s author is dragged out of her bed in the middle of the night and accused of embedding political allegory in her latest manuscript, also entitled ‘Closet Land’. In this meta-dramatic text, a young girl is befriended by her clothes which magically spring to life after her mother locks her in a cupboard. Tormented and tortured until the interrogator literally beats a confession out of her, the author eventually reveals that the story is merely an act of escapism, used as a coping mechanism to deal with the past trauma of childhood abuse.
Benjamin Orchard, who plays the interrogator, is suitably sinister in his role, and Melissa Rayner, who portrays the beleaguered author, is both doe-eyed and fiercely unrelenting. Orchard, who has also starred in Christopher Marlowe’s ‘The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus’, a ‘whodunnit’ play called ‘A Party To Murder’, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi parable ‘Obernewtyn’ was born to play this part. Indeed, he has an uncanny knack of convincing the audience that he really wants to physically and psychologically torture his victim. And despite Rayner’s lack of acting experience, one might assume that she has starred in many previous productions, as her courage and conviction sent a number of chills down my spine as the story unfolded.
First-time director Olivia Jane Parker certainly put a lot of gusto into the production, creating a nail-biting, hair-raising atmosphere that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the 90-minute psychological thriller. Further aided by the artistic stylings of Heather Mill and Jan Burns, sound and photography by Lucie Baker, cinematography by Daniel Vink and Andre Shank, lighting design by Stephen Dean, and set design and construction by Greg Spence, Rayner and Parker, the project was funded over a six-month period by various grants, including the crowd-funding platform, Pozible.
I made the lengthy flight from Brisbane to Adelaide to see the production and I’m incredibly glad that I did. ‘Closet Land – The Stage Play’, rated MA 15+, contains explicit content and scenes not suitable for children – and apparently not for some adults either, who decided to leave mid-production as the realistic imagery and confronting messages were presumably just too much for them. But as far as I’m concerned that’s their loss! ‘Closet Land – The Stage Play’ is not to be missed and was definitely worth the two-hour flight.