Cristina, Leviathan and the Cupboard: Review of Subtlenuance’s Cristinia in the Cupboard
Subtlenuance, a company devoted to staging wholly original work, is currently staging Paul Gilchrist’s latest play, Cristina in the Cupboard at the Tap Gallery. Plot-wise this is a very simple play: Cristina has shut herself away in a cupboard (her room) and her friends and family would like her to come out. Of course, after that things start to get a little more complicated. Inside Cristina’s cupboard, reality and imagination blur and much of the action is the fancies of her own mind.
Insofar as creating this blurring effect Gilchrist has done a deft job. At times Cristina’s parents and friends appear to converse with each other as one would in real life, but at a moment’s notice they are clearly Cristina’s contrivances. Where the lines did cross was never truly clear, but this was the point and it was well executed.
The question of course is why is Cristina in the cupboard? Does she just need some time out, some space to herself, is she searching for spiritual enlightenment in the tradition of the Buddha, or has she just retreated from life? Her family and friends try to lure her out using various tactics: guilt, friendship, sex, but Cristina rejects the social pressures and forces that compel us to conform to a life we don’t necessarily want, a life that prevents us from living the way we want. She doesn’t want to ‘settle’. In the end though, life must be embraced in its entirety, both the good and the bad, everything is there to be experienced and it should be. No doubt a nice idea but the play may have profited from some more plot and fewer introspective monologues that were heavy on rhetoric but light on real insight. Nevertheless, there were many fine moments to be had, and the cast all rose to the occasion.
Sylvia Keays plays Cristina, our introspective traveller. Cristina wants the world to let her be all that she can be, but at a time of her own choosing. Keays demonstrates enormous resolution in her characterisation. Her skills draw the audience in and they are compelled to listen to her story. Keays’ somewhat difficult job as the driving force of the story is mitigated by the fact that she is a true leader amongst the acting troupe.
Stephen Wilkinson plays Gabriel. He is the stumbling, bumbling adorable good guy who enjoyed a five year relationship with Cristina. They are just good friends now, though he wishes for more. Wilkinson has a unique presence on stage in that he reaches a sense of genuineness that many actors struggle to achieve. Consequently he produced a great number of the lovelier moments contained within the script. Wilkinson is a treat to watch on stage as one feels that something deeper is going on inside his head.
As Cristina’s younger sister Anna, Alice Keohavong matched Kaeys’ skill and warmth. With a voice to fill the room, Keohavong showed great versatility. It was great fun (and quite impressive) to watch her perform the six year old version of Anna. Keohavong also had wonderful moments of contemplation of self and made a concerted effort to give her character an arc. She was highly pleasing in this role, and demonstrated a great loyalty to the story (never attempting to overwhelm Cristina’s journey).
As a whole, the supporting cast pulled together to perform as the chorus of concerned friends, family and strange imaginings of Cristina – there were certainly no weak links in this production.
Overall, Cristina in the Cupboard offers a good exploration of its theme with some nice scenes and a collection of memorable one-liners; Gilchrist surely has a knack for writing. As an experiment in comic magic realism it certainly serves its purpose.
Cristina in the Cupboard is playing at the Tap Gallery until the 17th of November, for more details see: http://www.subtlenuance.com/