Review: Meeting Room 7

By Alexa Thanni

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I walked into Alington House yesterday evening, but Meeting Room 7 by certainly exceeded my expectations and is surely one of the finest pieces of student-written theatre I have ever seen. 

Meeting Room 7  follows the one-year anniversary of a seven-person support group that meets weekly for reasons revealed as the play progresses. The meetings follow a strict ‘no names, no details, no phones’ policy which requires the participants to create a pseudonym for themselves to preserve their anonymity. Each character is markedly different from the next and their entrances immediately reveal their character type and portray the complex relationships between them which have developed over the past year. This meeting, however, is unlike the others, as they become trapped in the room and one by one, they are each confronted by a voice that judges their behaviour and makes them question their true intentions. Tensions rise as they try to figure out who the voice is, why they’re being targeted and how they can escape. 

All of the cast must be praised for their dedication to their characters and the incredible realism with which they portray them; this truly is an ensemble piece with each flawless actor getting their moments to shine

Upon entering Alington House I was greeted by Chief (Nick Lemieux), the eccentric, erratic and overly enthusiastic group leader who eagerly led me through the room and to my seat directly facing the meeting room. Although Alington House can be a tricky venue to work with, Set Designer  makes excellent use of the space and the realistic simplicity of the set makes it genuinely feel like we are in a group meeting as the small room only adds to the intimacy and growing intensity of the piece.  

All of the cast must be praised for their dedication to their characters and the incredible realism with which they portray them; this truly is an ensemble piece with each flawless actor getting their moments to shine. The performance from as Voice is particularly impressive as they commanded attention with their dominating voice, authoritative stage presence and maniacal laughter. As the “villain” of the play, Haynes’ outstanding use of the dialogue to playfully taunt (and occasionally torture) their victims is incredible to watch!  

 as the enigmatic Pixie and  as the dramatic and affectionate Cass are a magnetic pair who bring playfulness and light-heartedness to the play. This contrasts beautifully with ’s cynical Jade who brings a raw vulnerability to the group, all three of them deliver some of the best performances I’ve seen in Durham and their chemistry and relationship development create some of the sweetest moments in the play. 

It is obvious the co-directors and  assisted by have done an exceptional job at bringing Pemberton’s writing to life and bringing the best out of the actors

Asher (Jonny Gutteridge) gives a strong portrayal of the most highly-strung character with most of their dialogue being in the form of explosive arguments, rants and their inevitable mental breakdown at the peak of the tension in the play, which Gutteridge performs superbly and clashes with ’s greedy Sterling who has a definite ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude which notably angers Asher even further.   gives a fantastic performance as the self-appointed leader of the group whose overly cheery façade starts to slip as the madness of their situation grows and they desperately try to keep everything in order.  

Doe (Ellen Olley), the extremely apathetic and nihilistic social outcast, is one of the most interesting characters by far. Arriving late and refusing to join the rest of the group, Doe’s entrance provides the first moments of tension in the play. Olley’s naturalistic portrayal and Pemberton’s slick dialogue ensure that Doe’s character doesn’t fall flat among the other more extroverted characters.  

It is obvious the co-directors and  assisted by have done an exceptional job at bringing Pemberton’s writing to life and bringing the best out of the actors. The staging was immersive, detailed and well thought through and the space was used efficiently especially with the character of Doe purposefully opting to sit anywhere but with the rest of the group for much of the play and despite the frequent chaotic moments in the play, the scenes never feel cramped. 

Pemberton has very successfully written a play that is incredibly inventive, intriguing and that uses each character’s specific personality traits to explore aspects of sin which live in us all and leaves the audience questioning our own true intentions

Producers and  have done a great job with their creative publicity and should be proud of the amazing production. The lighting and sound designs were very clever and ultimately essential to the success of the production. Production Manager along with should be commended for their hard work in bringing the slight supernatural elements of this play to life. 

Pemberton has very successfully written a play that is incredibly inventive, intriguing and that uses each character’s specific personality traits to explore aspects of sin which live in us all and leaves the audience questioning our own true intentions. Each character is well developed and the monologues within the play allow us to see each character for who they truly are when they are forced to face the worst parts of themselves. The dialogue is realistic, smooth, well-paced and the comedic moments of the play, often delivered by the apathetic yet superbly quick-witted Doe, help balance the play and are aided by Olley’s fantastic comedic timing! As one of the best shows I’ve seen in Durham so far, this is certainly not one you’d want to miss. 

Image credit: First Theatre Company

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