As we enter the theatre, three people are on stage, their outfits and the set entirely white. It’s a stark image that reduces people and personalities to a uniform state, giving nothing away about the person beneath the clothing.
We’re left to piece together how the scenario came to be through the characters on stage who are equally bemused by their predicament.
Though the word is never explicitly said within 'White Room', locking three people into a small space with no context, reasoning or expected duration amounts to torture. Any doubts about the inhumane motivations of the unnamed captors are dispelled when you realise the toilet has a dual purpose as their only source of water. It’s explained through slightly forced exposition that roughly 24 hours had already passed in the room prior to the moment we join them, giving us an insight into their mental state.
Image © Steven Morgan
The plot is progressed through a series of alarms which signify that an item has been provided to the group via a wooden monolith in the corner of the stage. The gamification of this plot point brings to mind TV shows like 'I’m A Celebrity' or 'Survivor', where the purpose is not to imprison people but to perform social experiments of sorts to see the reactions from the characters when faced with difficult challenges. With a growing list of intentionally unexplained plot points, it gives you empathy with the understanding of the prisoners.
You’d be forgiven for thinking of the performance as horror theatre, akin to a stage production of 'Saw', but 'White Room' never opts for the graphic shock. Instead the turmoils the cast face unfold slowly with the hope of escape always there as a possibility. There’s even some black comedy amongst it all, with a call-back to an ongoing game of 'I Spy' reminding you of the obsessive nature of a bored mind.
The eventual conclusion leaves many things unexplained, which is for the best. It leaves the imagery more open ended as to how the play mirrors real life, rather than heavy-handedly screaming “You are the ones to blame!” at the audience. While there are times where you don’t fully buy into the level of fear that the cast have for their situation, there are other moments of escalation which are genuinely chilling.
Image © Steven Morgan
'White Room' is an ambitious production that wouldn’t be out of place as a modern re-imagining of 'The Twilight Zone', or an episode of 'Black Mirror'. It doesn’t over-explain reframing the situation as each thing happens to the occupants of the room. The metaphors are subtly delivered and the plot is strong enough to enjoy on a surface level, as the best satire should be.
If dystopian satire is your thing, then this is the show for you.