Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★
The premise that our castaway inanimate objects take on life when out of the sight of unwitting humans is not a new one, but this Turn the Key production manages to breathe a pleasantly eerie twist into the concept. Writer and director Gemma Aked-Priestley brings us an entertaining peek into a dream-like cupboard-under-the-stairs world occupied by the discards of a mystery owner.
From the moment our little rodent hero (Juliet Chant-Tuft) finds her way up through the floorboards into the broom cupboard, we sense danger is coming, and so does she. The welcoming party of ‘Sal the Sack’ and ‘Sweeps’ conjure up a delicious duo of thinly veiled madness. Sydney Burges and Alex Edge perform with great physical commitment and energy, though both could have benefited from a little more specific character exploration. Emerging sourly from behind a broken cuckoo clock, Elena Whittaker brings a lovely gothic gravitas to her abandoned old boot ‘Rightie’, the villain of the narrative – but also demonstrates a solid versatility doubling up as the pompous cuckoo herself.
Song is used sparingly throughout, but despite the catchy tunes it’s difficult to completely justify the necessity of the musical numbers, they tend to sit atop the narrative as opposed to assisting it, and one can’t help feeling that the actors could handle a more sophisticated showcase of their musical talents.
There are a number of delightful moments throughout however, namely Adrian Moore’s tragic descent as ‘Fray’, an old piece of rope haunted by his illicit uses, played for the most part with quiet anxiety spiralling toward an ultimately moving epiphany. The hostile undercurrent of the cupboard family is unsettling (a macabre puppet scenario comes to mind), though these sequences are occasionally a little too crude in execution and leave too little to the imagination.
The show bubbles with possibility, but craves more lyrical sophistication in the script, which would come with another turn of the creative cycle. This young company however has a lot to offer, and is no doubt placed to go from strength to strength in the future.
Turn the Key