Theatre does not necessarily end with a tidy resolution, nor does it straightforwardly set out a story. “This Stays in the Room” is nonlinear theatre, based on lives and experiences that are extremely real.
Some stories of the four cast members, and stories of other unseen participants, are used to create a piece which overlaps and weaves these stories in a polyphonic fugue-like fashion (reminding me of TJ Dawe’s recent work, The Fugue Fugue). The use of real, raw stories reminded me of local theatre company Theatre for Living and its adaptation of Augusto Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed”.
I did not find this an easy play to watch and listen to. The tragedies of the stories, coming one after the other and simultaneously, were viscerally difficult to hear. However, there’s no reason theatre should be an easy experience all the time, and the work of the actors in bringing these stories to life was magnificent. And although there were tragedies, there were also happy stories, like the young pregnant mother (and I so appreciated that Horseshoes and Hand Grenades cast a pregnant actor) who gets much-appreciated help from her own mother (although this account was even somewhat hard to hear, as it invoked envy in me). Actor Allan Morgan generously presents a difficult coming-of-age story and a triumph over alcoholism, among others (although I cannot be positive these were his stories–there’s no guarantee of that).
The recounting of these stories, most of which involved some components of abuse, shame, or forgiveness (or all of these) reminded me somewhat of PostSecret, which is a project that collects postcards from people who anonymously write secrets on them. What does it mean to tell a story that reflects deep, dark secrets and suffering, particularly in an age where secrets seem almost impossible?
I loved the actors’ intense participation in and enactment of these stories. I expect this play may hit you hard, but it can and should provoke you to think about your own secret stories.