Review- The Next Door- Hong Kong Theatre Association





By Nuria Palau


We live in a hyperconnected world in which we let algorithms decide everything for us, from the music we listen to or the movies watched, to the people we date. It seems we don’t trust a film if Netflix doesn’t recommend it to us, or listen to a song if it does not appear in Spotify’s Discover. And the dating world seems to be heading towards the same direction with a growing number of apps that apply filters and filters of compatibility tests.


However, La Porte a' Cote explores the idea of chemistry over compatibility because sometimes we don’t like a movie by our favourite director or we love a song from a genre we didn’t even know existed. The script and the story were fun and lively. The author, using two characters we already know, a control freak psychologist and a charismatic laid back lady-killer who works in marketing, gave us a starting point in which introductions are barely needed, and he took us straight to the plot. These two characters, as neighbours, were forced to deal with each other as the audience joined them on several encounters. The characters were brought to life by Bertrand Leduby and Emilie Guillot, brilliant actors who understood their roles in not only depth but also the complex and intense relationship they had with each other.


As a comedy duo, the play depended ultimately on the cast’s chemistry. In this, Guillot did a fantastic job as the director. She and Leduby used their words as swords and the pace of rhythm is so precise that, at times, it felt like watching a tango duet; yet, overall, there was an organic and spontaneous feel.


As a non-French speaker, the greater challenge as a viewer was to watch the play with English subtitles. A few times, as I was finishing reading, the audience was already laughing and it made me notice how every now and them, I got a bit lost in translation. However, critical moments or jokes were reinforced by the great acting; by the use of tone and body language the actors conveyed a lot.


The stage was simple but functional. The space was transformed through the use of lights that set a certain mood in every situation and props were brought on and off stage by an ensemble appearing like clockwork. In between scenes, the space was also filled with songs which, whilst sometimes saturating the viewer, helped set a time, place and mood for the following scene. This technical aspect showed not only a clear vision from the director but also a close attention to detail that is great to see in a theatre.


The play filled its silence with data and statistics about the online dating world, using this as an introduction to the next scene. Nevertheless, this information felt challenged by the reality of the face to face encounters of the protagonists, two people who would never “match” on or Tinder. This, by contrast, made us see that individuals and connections are more than numbers and probability.


This production has now closed. For more information, click here.



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