A little bit of everything, a load of laughs and a single tear – Sally Roger’s The Still Room is a near perfect depiction of class disparities and coming of age.

Set in 1980s Manchester against the backdrop of a royal wedding, hotel staff navigate life’s pitfalls in the kitchen’s still room. Coming to terms with the limitations placed on the working class versus the freedoms of the rich, four waitresses, a bar man and one shabby manager had the audience at the Park Theatre in fits of giggles from the moment the lights came on.

Brilliantly cast, Sally’s show kicked off with a blast of comedic lines and energetic characters. The script was engaging and funny, delivering a seemingly simple narrative that slowly developed to reveal its many layers of societal commentary. Taking place exclusively in one room, this didn’t limit the acting or show in any way – in fact, written so cleverly it was barely noticeable that the setting never changed.

Throughout the entirety of the first act, the narrative planted the seeds of dominant themes that would later resurface in a deeper, more emotional way. Displaying acts of teenage insecurity, monologues and discourse on feeling trapped in lives that lead to nowhere and young women’s discovery of their sexuality, there was plenty for the audience to digest and nibble on. Overall, with its heavily comedic tone, it seems on reflection the first half of the play acted as the façade and build up for each character – a moment for them to allow the audience to get to know them on a surface level before delving beneath it in act two.

Leaving the audience in stitches, as the stage darkened for the interval, murmurs of approval echoed round the intimate venue. Little did we know, things were about to get even better as the play plunged straight into its final half. From the offset of this section, a tone change was evident and this is where Sally Rogers’s talent as a playwright shone through.

Given the dark and delicious humour dominating the first half, the level of emotional depth and despair weaving its way through the rest of the play was surprising and poignant. There was not a single cast member that didn’t go through a transformation in this section and it was both heartbreaking and fascinating to watch. Peppered with funny lines to break the tension, the laughs were fewer to allow for the real character development to begin.

We watched on as one by one, secrets were shared, truths were revealed and as the characters broke down exposing their individual pain points, the audience built up admiration for their struggle and fell deeper into the emotional connection Sally’s writing and Nigel Douglas’s directing allowed us to form. Hearing their stories of feeling lost, failure, downbeat parents and their pressures from society, revealed arcs we could never have anticipated from act one alone.

Without doubt, the highlight moment from the production was its ending monologue. I won’t bore you with endless reems of praise but just know it deserves it. A rambling mismatch of pleading, begging for another chance at life – another seat on another boat – Janice, played by the incredible Kate James, brought the house down with her powerful delivery. Dimpling the audience’s skin with goosebumps, every word that came out of her mouth was spoken with spearing emotion. Leaving everything on the stage, a single tear slid down her cheek as the final line soared across the theatre and the room faded to black to a standing ovation.

Based on an unpredictable storyline designed to shock and keep us on our toes, this play delivered on its promise of razor-sharp comedy – to say the least. I won’t give away too much, but The Still Room is definitely one evening I’d repeat in a heartbeat. Well done!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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