No Exit cast photo

The fine cast of Never You Mind have taken the grandiose task of mounting Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, a 1944 existentialist play about three damned souls stuck in Hell together. This particular version of hell has no torture devices, nor burning pokers.

Upon entering Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre, the stage remains dark with a sole chandelier suspended from above, right until the start of the performance. When the dimly-lit stage and red glow finally do expose us to Hell, we see a sparsely-furnished drawing room in the style of the Second French Empire, containing three seating options of varying shapes and sizes, a mantle with a bronze bust, and the aforementioned chandelier. No windows, no mirrors, but a door that encloses an angular room.

The Valet
[Terry Mullet]

Director Lisa-Marie Marrelli, together with Assistant Director Rebecca Graf and Stage Manager Hans Potter have produced a space that draws us in by virtue of its odd slanted form. By the time we’re used to its minimalistic, dark qualities, we’re greeted with the Valet (a comic, yet vaguely sinister Terry Mullet), whose only job is to welcome visitors to Hell and (occasionally) answer any questions they may have upon arrival.

Nigel Vonas as Garcin
[Nigel Vonas]

Joseph Garcin (Nigel Vonas) is the first victim to enter Hell. His first concern is if and where he’ll brush his teeth; the next observation is a search for the torture devices. Atmospheric soundscapes emanate from the halls of Hell and some wonderful, eerie sound effects continue throughout the 90-minute, no intermission play courtesy of talented Sound Designer Mike Heath.

A few moments have passed, and already Garcin is feeling his inescapable reality set in. “Where’s the light switch?” Next.

Flora Karas as Inez
[Flora Karas]

Inès Serrano (Flora Karas) is escorted as damned soul number two. Again the Valet leads her in, and her first question is whether Garcin is the torturer. From what we’ve gathered until now, Hell is a series of passageways leading to many more rooms such as this.

Once the Valet leaves, the two try to establish ground rules. Before long, Estelle Rigault (Lauren Campbell) arrives, hysterical and dressed as though she’d just been dropped through a black hole from a tea party to Hell.

Lauren Campbell as Estelle
[Lauren Campbell]

“I’m in pale blue and the sofa’s vivid green” is one of the blond diva’s first remarks to the other two.

They begin to open up to one another and each is able to see the world they left behind via an illuminated portal on the stage floor. According to lesbian postal worker Inès, “This room was all set for us. Nothing was left to chance.” She’s obviously the one with the loudest opinions, and winds up manipulating Estelle and Garcin, pitting them against one another one moment, drawing the two in a loving embrace the next. She’s smitten by Estelle, and jealous of the fact that she’s only drawn to men. Inès tells it like it is — “We’re all murderers, and now it’s time to pay”.

Meanwhile, the real reasons they’ve each descended into Hell become apparent, with more insults and accusations being flung across the stage, hotter than any fiery poker can produce.

In the end, the Hell they’ve been faced to deal with is each other. Even with Garcin finally managing to pry the exit door open, escape is not an option. Watch madness set in as No Exit draws to an end.

All three actors have done a fantastic job of drawing in the audience to an inescapable situation. This demanding piece requires much dialogue while keeping the air tense with conflict as one actor exposes the other with their weaknesses. It’s dreadful, but at the same time, hard to look away.

No Exit continues through November 23 at Waterfront Theatre, and then moves to Port Moody’s Inlet Theatre from November 28 to 30. All shows at 8 pm, Sundays at 6 pm.

Photos by Kyle-James Patrick.

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