The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs premieres Oct. 30. Photo: CC, Marianne Duval.
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U of O psychological thriller set to debut on stage tonight

On Oct. 30, University of Ottawa student actors will be tackling The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs—a play by Carole Fréchette, which may make audiences question reality.

The Small Room, which will have performances until Nov. 3 at the Academic Hall of Séraphin Marion, revolves around Grace—a protagonist who offers audiences an unreliable narration of her traumatic experiences in a rich man’s house.

“It’s a contemporary take on the Bluebeard legend,” explained Melina Buziak, the professional student-director, “which is basically the story of a very rich man who marries a young woman and brings her to his enormous house and tells her that she can go to any room in the house except for one … (where) she (eventually) finds the bodies of his previous wives whom he murdered.”

However, viewers can still expect to be surprised. “This is a modern take on that,” continued Buziak. “It’s not quite the same story, but it does start with a very rich husband, and a young wife who is very attracted by this room that she can’t go into (where) she eventually opens the door and …  finds … something.”

For the cast of seven students, and the numerous other students taking part in its production, Buziak expects that they might find more than just answers by the end of the play.

“I think it’s a really good experience working in a professional setting,” she told the Fulcrum. “It may be a student production, but there are many professionals involved from the field and, so, there is an incentive to have professional production experience.”

Buziak also explained that the play confronted students with technical challenges that ranged from design difficulties, to the extreme complexity of the characters—which served as learning experience that some performers were looking for when they signed up for The Small Room in September.

“I think a lot of them were intrigued by the story, by the text, by the way it was written because it’s not your regular realistic drama—it goes way beyond that,” she said. “The characters often break the fourth wall and refer directly to the audience and the text is really intriguing.”

Indeed, one of the most unique parts of the upcoming performance is that, even if the viewer attends the same show as the person sitting next to them, they might not draw the same conclusion about what took place on stage.

“The line between reality and non-reality is very thin. So, we never really know what she’s making up in her head, and what’s actually happening,” said Buziak—which she finds to be its biggest selling point.

“I’d like (prospective viewers) to have a hypothesis about what this play is about, but not necessarily the same hypothesis (as one another),” she said.

“Come and make up your mind about what is really real.”

Tickets for The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs are free for students from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, with a student ID, and will cost five dollars on Nov. 2 and 3. The event will be taking place at Academic Hall, and all reservations can be made on their Eventbrite page.


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