Charlotte Ambrose enjoys the jet-black humour of Fourth Wall Theatre’s Holes.

Cait Mahoney directs a fast-paced tragic comedy following four survivors of a plane crash navigating their responses to disaster. The audience experienced both the hilarious and harrowing dimensions of drunkenness, mania and irrationality. Mahoney’s and assistant director Max Greenhalgh’s production of Tom Basden’s script encapsulates themes of entrapment, responsibility and the nature of human civilisation, whilst simultaneously sustaining the audience in fits of laughter.

As the audience walked into the theatre, we were confronted with Toni Hogan (Erin) crying in shock at the front of the stage, along with Romilly Carboni (Gus) and Henrie Allen (Marie) lying at either side of her. The intimate setting of City Theatre established an intensely immediate and claustrophobic feeling before the action of the play started. The dramatic effect of this established the tone of the play as desolate and so Mungo Russell’s (Ian) sudden appearance was made all the more shocking because of the comic contrast of his entrance. Hogan’s ability to hold character was especially impressive with the audience just inches away from her laughing at Carboni’s and Russell’s witty opening dialogue.

The plain black background of the set was utilised impressively. The actors animated the stage, thus elaborate visual devices were not necessary to set the scene.  Although something like having sand on the stage could have elevated the aesthetics of the play, it wasn’t necessary as the plain black set did not undermine the tropical setting. The contemporary costumes were simple and effective – Ian, Gus and Marie in ripped office wear and Erin in jeans and a t-shirt. The multitude of rapid costume changes which were executed professionally and swiftly. Scene changes were also slick; lighting and sound such as the crackling of a walkie talkie heightened the effectiveness of this.

The script is controversial and at times could be seen as politically incorrect, but the team manoeuvred this potential point of tension well. The ways in which Ian, Marie and Gus maintained their office-like relations created a droll dynamic which was poignant set against the disaster of their situation.

The play encapsulated such a multitude of genres, themes and moods that the collective consciousness of the audience at the end of the play had been wildly stretched and challenged – the majority of the play was comical, but took a dark turn. The progression of the action was ultimately cyclical as the serious tone established from the initial set up of the characters mirrored the travesty and desperation of the ending, which sandwiched the light-hearted mood of the middle part of the action.

Fourth Wall Theatre Company continues to present Holes until the 22nd February at the City Theatre.