• Drama
  • By David Ian Lee
  • Directed by Joao de Sousa
  • Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh
  • Until 25th August 2014
  • 12:00 (1h 30 mins)
  • Review by Tamara Stanton
  • 23rd August 2014
The Curing Room
3.0Reviewer's Rating

Based on true events, The Curing Room is a compelling portrayal of human desperation.

Its Spring 1944 and seven Soviet soldiers have been captured and imprisoned by the Nazis. The stage is their prison – the empty cellar of a monastery in southern Poland.

There is no food or water, although occasionally the prisoners will lick salty dew off the floor.

The cast is totally naked throughout, and this nakedness interestingly plays off the idea of uniformity and lack of individuality, bringing the typical POW pyjama-type garb to mind. Without clothes individuality is at first removed in a humiliating vulnerability, but then individuality is re-established in the unavoidable comparison of body shapes. This is an individuality unchosen and uncompromising, leading to an intense power struggle of male egos.

The nakedness also paves the way to men’s regression into bloody carcasses – human beings are reduced to lifeless flesh. There are scenes of cannibalism which are impressively realistic, and it is surprisingly interesting to watch in an anatomical sense – which part of the body would you eat first if faced with this unthinkable circumstance?

At times the dialogue was a little weak. Perhaps requesting continuously engaging chat between men who are starving, weak and overcome with despondency is a bit much, but it would have made the dialogue more memorable. As it was the nakedness and the cannibalism – the physical aspects – were not fully compensated psychologically; the deterioration of the human mind was not explored as much as hoped for.

A fascinating and very chilling sense of end is accomplished in the question of whether to perform rites over the dead. The response “rites only benefit the living” acknowledges their deadness before they are dead; they are enveloped with a fading hope which tightens the stomachs of the audience.

Perhaps this performance is not for the faint-hearted or prudish, but wholly recommended for a terrifying depiction of the human at its strongest or weakest, debatably.

About The Author

I live in London after studying English Literature at university, and I currently teach and write in my spare time. I was lucky to go to the Edinburgh Fringe with PlaysToSee last summer where I saw some brilliant performances, especially some of the physical theatre. I am very interested in the way space is used in performances, where the imagination of directors, actors and audience work in collaboration.

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