3 Min Read

Understated Chaos: Hell Is Other People

Hell Is Other People is a multi-sensory experience encompassing somehow the most ordinary smells known to man. I never realised that waiting rooms had a smell. From the moment you walk into the theatre, you’re hit with the scent of mediocrity. Even the smell of generic soap is apparent as the cast dance around the stage and morbidly lip-sync (more on that later). Was that nasal assault even on purpose?

Hell Is Other People. Photography by BSP.

The show opens without dialogue with Mr Bean-esque grunts that had me cackling. As it unfolded, I felt more and more uncomfortable with the fact I found it funny. Yvan Karlsson direction is effortless yet intense. As soon as Nathan Di Giovanni starts strutting around the room I’m fixed to the movements of their sassy poise. There is an understated chaos of objects purposefully put out of place. Is this hell? Or is hell sitting there with no dialogue and painstakingly hanging onto every movement they make? Even the slightest shifting of weight from one foot to another feels like the stale air in the room is being moved on a meteorological scale.

Each aspect of the set design is put in place with a purpose that left me curious as to when that prop’s moment would come. A pen cap being removed exposes a bloody wound on a character. At that point it solidifies the fact they’re in hell. The simple transitions into darkness that open up to more blood splatters on the walls are small but significant details that draw your attention and pull your feelings into strange places. Even the paint behind signs that fall down exposing how faded the paint around it was engenders some kind of discomfort. It’s the small details that hit hard.

Hell Is Other People. Photography by BSP.

Amidst the stillness and minute detail there are moments where the cast break into lip-syncing performances of upbeat songs. The jaunty jolts of movement are somehow not out of place. It simultaneously gives 90s music video choreography vibes and also uncoordinated drunken-relative-at-a-wedding vibes. Throwing your hands in the air like you just don’t care gets a whole new meaning in hell. These bursts of movement are a macabre addition to the stale environment that just enhances the sterility once they’re over. Even with the audience’s laughter cutting through the air. The air is almost its own character. And only Yvan Karlsson could direct such an elusive actor.

If you think your humour is dark, then this show will cast a cold fluorescent light on little things you didn’t know could be funny.

Hell Is Other People is presented by Monkey Brain and is on now until May 27 at The Blue Room Theatre.