Elbow Room: Rule of Three

The above promotional photo for Rule of Three is only the first of many unusual elements of the play.

This article first appeared on Buzzcuts, Express Media’s cultural arts blog.

You are ushered into a dark room and told to sit next to a corpse. The motionless figure is lit up by two rows of candles, each one flickering and letting off an uncomfortable smoky smell. It reminds you of a room in Madame Tussaud’s where all the disembodied wax figures hang from the ceiling.

That’s when you notice an Adam’s apple bobbing.

He’s alive. Indeed, he’s a real human.

His name is Alec (Dean Cartmel) and he’s your first point of call inRule of Three. Trapped in what seems like a solitary confinement cell, Alec is understandably a paranoid and confused individual. You know he’s acting – and boy, is he convincing – but the cause of his agitation is unclear.

Emily Tomlins and Tim Wotherspoon make up the trio, but you only meet them later. They are similarly lost, questioning everything including their identity. One can only presume there is a profound meaning behind each of their befuddled soliloquies, something worthy of another Matrix sequel. But the performance’s themes are never explicitly revealed, leaving the audience to piece the puzzle together and read between the lines in their own time.

As such, it’s difficult to know what to make of Elbow Room: Rule of Three. It’s one of those arty performances that will polarise audiences; you will either love it, or you won’t get it. While this critic falls into that latter category, there are nevertheless a few unequivocally strong aspects of the experimental piece.

As mentioned earlier, the lighting and haunting soundtrack – a sustained minor chord, wavering only in its intensity – successfully create a dystopian mood. At times, you feel as though you’re lost in a deleted scene from Blade Runner or Terminator. It’s the end of the world as you know it, but nobody feels fine.

Moreover, the intimacy of Rule of Three – which takes place in an appropriate warehouse setting – gives the performance a memorable quality. The characters might scare you, the plot might confuse you, and the ambience might get your spine tingling, but there’s one thing for sure – Rule of Three will remain in your mind for a very long time.

Rule of Three runs until 13 October at The Warehouse. Full ticketing information is available on the website.