The Way Out follows heroine Judy Gale, a budding young journalist who is eager to unravel the truth about the new regime in her futuristic, Kafkaesque world. A mixture of absurdism and dystopia, it sadly follows an uninspired narrative, lifting predictable tropes from familiar genres and building to an unclear ending.
While at work, Judy receives a mysterious message about a fire in Zone 12, and takes it upon herself to find its sender. She spends the rest of the play in an office block, stumbling between absurd scenarios in an attempt to find “the man at the top” – an elusive, unseen character.
The result feels like a study of absurdism and dystopia, rather than a new story in itself. It is successful in blending together these genres, but while originals in the field build toward some sort of point or message, The Way Out feels ungrounded.
The writing is strongest in absurdist moments, with genuinely funny lines which are well-timed and deserved a better response from the audience. The comedy of the piece is sustained by the two bouncer characters, played by Victoria Priddice and Jack Whitney, who work well together as actors. Priddice also plays a receptionist in another of the play’s comic highlights. There are other redeeming details too, as when the lift in the office block is beautifully signalled by a neon square of light on the floor.
But unfortunately, these moments don’t compensate for a meaningless script and weak characterisation. Arguably the characters are intended solely as dramatic devices, but either way, the actors are not given much to work with. As a result, the lead character is uninteresting, two dimensional and frankly quite annoying – seemingly only capable of feeling defiant, indignant or confused. Perhaps the play would have made for a better watch if there was an emotional connection with her; as it was I didn’t feel engaged with her story, and I didn’t care what happened to her.
Admittedly, absurdism is difficult to get right, and harder still when combining it with another genre. With good acting and decent staging, The Way Out was somewhat enjoyable – but it was let down by a tired premise, frequent clichés, and lack of purpose in the ending.