Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Waiting Room

David Coggins
All Things Considered Theatre
The Kings Arms, Salford
28 October 2016 to 29 October 2016

Public transport is a bit of a lottery. You can never be sure whether or not the person sat next to you will turn out to be a raving loony. Take Thomas (sole performer Sam Grogan) for example; from his outward appearance – smartly dressed and neat haircut- he seems inoffensive. Waiting for a train he describes himself as a good man; he eats museli, jogs, and avoids remarks that might upset his overweight wife (who he refers to as his’ better half’). Yet his dreams are full of violence.

The banality of evil has been raised in the past but David Coggins’s Waiting Room concerns the mundane nature of madness. The day-to-day issues that are pushing Thomas towards insanity (littering, an arrogant boss) are almost trivial but Coggins suggests that the high pressure of modern life is such that they assume a disproportionate significance.  

There is no flab in the script; all of the descriptions are tight and to the point. The evocative way in which Coggins describes Thomas’s situation makes it all too easy to relate to the character thus reinforcing the point of the play: Thomas could be any one of us.

A monologue is notoriously hard to get right and can easily turn into bombastic hectoring. Sam Grogan avoids this pitfall and emphasises the everyman nature of Thomas by adopting the evangelical but superficial tone of a consultant making a presentation. It is an inspired approach; most audience members will be familiar with the tone and associate it with insincerity and so be on guard for the true meaning lurking under the surface.

Grogan allows enough of Thomas’s humanity to shine through to make the audience aware that his madness is not chosen but something to which he has been driven. The performance has an oddly seductive quality so that Thomas’s actions, instead of being repellent, start to seem almost reasonable. 

The set is mental rather than physical. Stephen Hull designs a montage of sounds that reflect Thomas’s deteriorating mental state. Train announcements merge with violent descriptions to suggest the character’s internal conflict.

Dark, disturbing and compelling Waiting Room is real horror story for Halloween 

Reviewer: David Cunningham