Sell A Door Theatre’s “Rainbow” is presently established at Zoo Southside. Three men stand on marble plinths, at first appearing a little like victorious Olympians posing together on their podium, but looking increasingly less like Olympians by the minute. Unless they have received gold, silver and bronze for abject human failure. In any event, Tom, Russ, and Martin have been raised for us on this day of judgement. Perhaps their bodies are still in the earth, for this show is comprised only of their voices. The story will be passed from one to the other and the variety helps to move it along. If any of them told their story all in one go, it would be unbearable.
They seem to be random people from an unspecified town or city, who are only connected in passing. Martin is Tom’s teacher and Russ is a loan shark’s enforcer who at one point encounters Martin by chance in a café. In the course of the story, Martin will only speak to Tom once and Russ will only speak to Martin once. But although they may not be aware of it – at least from each other’s lips – their lives are in some deeply mystical way interlinked. These three will evince a sort of unconscious spiritual solidarity.
There is nothing particularly bad about “Rainbow,” but the worst thing is the writing. A crucial point in the story requires that a man who has lost the skin off both of his hands is able to use a cigarette lighter. The characters often resort to wonky, somewhat florid expressions, and we may struggle to attribute this only to them rather than to their creator Emily Jenkins. Tom sounds oddly like Russell Brand and he proves just as verbally inventive. When overwhelmed with troubles, he has been shot in the heart with a death ray, a meteor has crashed into his belly, and there is boiling oil bubbling in his throat. We can always blame his teacher for these excesses, as a distraught Martin will himself claim that a plug has been pulled out of the back of his head or that a girl lying at the foot of his stairs looks like a “discarded Kleenex.”
Yet the awkwardness of the writing is often smoothed over by the cast. Oliver Ashworth’ enforcer is initially engaging, but he grows convincingly unstable. If you met him in real life, you would be great friends with Russ, but you would be careful to be never left alone with him. James Hender’s teacher Martin is self-evidently based upon a real teacher – possibly somebody who had once taught Hender – but even when describing humping one of his own pupils over the washing machine, he seems too pathetic to be really seedy. It is rather like listening to Mr Bean’s accounts of his sexual conquests. As the noble savage “special needs” schoolboy, Tom could be potentially disastrous, but he is given depth and credibility through Kyle Treslove’s captivating performance.
“Rainbow” is hard work – it is not only grim and unpleasant, but realistically so. Yet this story will offer the brief possibility of redemption for its characters, even if it may be upon reflection as fleeting as a rainbow.