The Waiting Room is an hour-long character study of Magdalene, a long-term homeless and residing on a Highgate bench. This detailed, and at times surreal, exploration of hercomplex life reveals the tragic events that have shaped her and the baggage she carries. Elaine Taylor’s script, skilfully hints at Magdalene’s troubled past, without straying into blunt exposition. This intriguing story has a nice level of ambiguity leaving you to draw your own conclusions as to its meaning.
We watch as her life gradually unravels as she is visited by several characters, including a grieving young Mother, a Father who broke her heart, and a former city banker. These emotionally intense exchanges force her revisit long-repressed memories, which cut through her bravado. Roisin Managhanis extremely good as Magdalene, bringing a unique charisma, humour and vulnerability to this multi-faceted character. Even more impressive was that she only joined the cast within a week of the premiere.
The set design, a bench littered with unwanted rubbish, acts as a metaphor for Magdalene in how she’s been discarded by society and her loved ones. One of the most touching scenes was her combative exchange with Father Francis, about why he abandoned her during her pregnancy - when she needed him most. We get the impression that this was a pivotal moment in her life, and that things could have ended up very differently for her.
The supporting cast are all strong, bringing something unique to their characters, who each reveal a different aspect to Magdalene’s past. Most intriguing was former city banker, played by Leo Taylor-Jannati. Initially benevolent, before becoming increasingly sinister, he implies that she is already dead. These exchanges seem to be her life flashing before her eyes. Although I get the feeling that everyone will take something different from this play.
The Waiting Room played at Upstairs at the Gatehouse as part of Camden Fringe and was an impressive piece of work. Hopefully the cast and crew will bring this play to other venues in London in the near future. Definitely worth checking out if so.
Written by Martin Stocks