Angela Betzien’s The Dark Room is another eerie, powerful play by my favourite mistress of the gothic.
There’s one dingy room in a motel in the Northern Territory, six people come and go from the room, but they’re not there on the same night. What we’re seeing are three separate events that took place at different times but are linked by the space. Betzien has written the play so that they overlap and interweave and the reader/audience has to figure out what’s happening when and how they are linked.
Grace is a deeply disturbed young girl, fleeing something terrible. She’s in the motel room with Anni, the child protection worker who came to get her and found her hidden under the house.
GRACE: There is a dark
It is the darkest of dark
It’s the dark in the dirt under the house where the dogs lie
It’s the place I hide under the house when the growling starts
There is a scratching sound and a heart beat
Feels like fur in the dark place
Warm like blood
This where I wait
This where I’m waiting
This where I wait for you
While Anni tries to get through to Grace and Grace alternates between repelling and pursuing her, Stephen and his pregnant wife Emma argue.
STEPHEN: I’m drunk I’m wasted actually I’ve been on it since this arvo
Been at a wedding
I was best man had to give a speech
You get nervous you drink you know then it all goes pear shaped
No one remembers in the morning
Stephen is a police officer, “a glorified bouncer with a license to kill” as his wife says. She’s furious with him because he’s defending his best mate (the groom), who is another cop and who recently killed a young boy.
The other characters are Craig, the cop, and an enigmatic bruised boy with bleeding feet. All of them are damaged, moving back and forwards from what burns them like moths with singed wings. The language is frequently brutal, the images conjured are the stuff of nightmares yet it all comes together in a breathless poem of loss and beauty.
Publisher: Playlab Press
Cast: 3M, 3F