REVIEW: SIT! (Or I’ll Make You Sit) | The Blue Room Theatre

SIT! (Or I’ll Make You Sit)
Review by Cicely Binford

Sub, dom, or dog – where do you sit? SIT! (Or I’ll Make You Sit), a new play by Morgan Owen, directed by Izzy McDonald, and featuring the talents of performers Ebony McGuire, Alicia Osyka, Ben Sutton, and Owen herself, has made its debut at The Blue Room Theatre. SIT! is a crackling piece of ensemble theatre that explores control and captivity in the context of intimate relationships through the eyes of three humans and a dog.

McGuire plays Ainsley, a high profile lawyer with a Pavlovian attachment to her mobile and a fiercely protective dog named Chekhov, played by Osyka. Ainsley’s partner Blair (Owen) wants to move in, but before she does, Ainsley insists on meeting Blair’s ex Dom (Sutton). They’ve invited Dom to dinner, and the inevitable disaster unfolds; truths are revealed, gaslighting occurs, and somebody gets bitten.

SIT! clocks in at a bit under 2 hours without interval, which is rather long for a Blue Room piece; it plays with time and perspective, using flashbacks, flashforwards, and replays scenes from the dog’s point of view. Two prologue scenes set the play’s darkly humorous tone and introduce its main themes in an oblique fashion. The second of the prologue scenes, although excellently written and deftly performed by Osyka and McGuire, feels like it belongs in a different show (one that I would definitely love to see) and doesn’t serve the main narrative as easily as it should, given the length of time devoted to it.

The play’s structure has a very filmic quality, with Sorkin-like dialogue that Owen delivers flawlessly – makes sense, as they’re her own words – and keeps listeners on their toes. This could be a minefield for a less gifted crew, but McDonald keeps the direction tight and the performers keep a firm grip on the script; even opening night jitters and minor cue fumbles (and dare I even mention the multiple COVID-related scheduling delays that surely impacted the show’s momentum in the lead-up to opening?) couldn’t derail this speed train of a show.

The functional but clever set by James McMillan suggests the show’s themes using contemporary styling, allows for multiple intimate playing spaces that are visible to all sections of the audience, and suits the play’s angular energy. There are funny little sound cues punctuating the scene shifts and written timeline cues are projected on the side wall to support the audience’s understanding through the jumps in narrative.

Owen has clearly got a sharp mind and a knack for wit and the unexpected; although the imaginary circumstances she’s built for this world are exaggerated, her characters behave in ways that seem logical or rational, right up until they don’t. This keeps the dynamic within the ensemble intriguing, raises provocative questions, and incites unexpected reactions to the black humour. Chekhov (Osyka) steals the scenes they’re in, and Ainsley (McGuire) serves as the glue that holds everyone together, acting as protagonist – until she isn’t.

The show’s context is meant to provoke, and Owen acknowledges that the themes have a potential to trigger. Many viewers may have an acute understanding of or experience with control without consent in relationships, but the show treads around the subject in a way that feels removed enough from ‘real life’, especially through the device of giving Chekhov a voice and a platform, to keep audiences comfortable.

SIT! has plenty to make theatregoers salivate on cue, and I expect audiences will be waiting expectantly for their next treat from Owen’s pen.