A dazzling display of talent and charisma. Dimitra Barla is a tour de force in her new one woman show, The Cloakroom Attendant.
Set in the cloakroom of the ‘National Treasure’ (a fictional art gallery loosely based on the Wallace Foundation), The Cloakroom Attendant is funny, meaningful and at some points very harrowing. From befriending an intriguing and inquisitive young boy to dealing with the snobbery of some of the regular visitors, Margot (the attendant) relays her feelings of isolation and dissatisfaction with her life inside the constraining walls of the cloakroom.
Margot occasionally breaks away from her stories and re-enacts, part by part, a romantic tale based on the story of Francesca and Paolo (from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy), two adulterous lovers trapped in the second circle of hell. This subplot reinforces Margot’s own feelings of entrapment in the stories of her life. Margot’s version has been modernised and presents their hell as more of a metaphysical one. The two different aspects of this show tie together beautifully for a heartbreaking finale.
Dimitra Barla, who wrote The Cloakroom Attendant and plays Margot, has a wonderful way of stimulating the audiences imagination. Utilising the various coats and bags (that represent the visitors), Barla steps into the personas of these characters with confidence, clarity and wonderful energy. Her capacity for languages and different characterisations makes all of her dramatizations very unique and separate from one another.
The script itself is an inspired piece of work. Although there isn’t a definite narrative as such, you still get the sense of Margot’s emotional journey. The excellent use of symbolism in Margot’s stories is what makes the piece feel so rich and full of life. Dimitra Barla has remarkable capability in both writing and performance. My only suggestion would be that she gives it a bit more energy at the beginning of the piece, as she seemed shaky. The piece is in a very early stage and I suspect this was just nerves. For what it was, it was brilliant: captivating and utterly hilarious. I will most definitely be keeping my eye on the further development of the piece.