No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
Set Designer: Ashley Waldron
No Exit is a French existentialist play written in 1944 by Jean-Paul Sartre. Three main characters, Garcin, Inez, and Estelle are all brought individually to the same room in Hell by a mysterious Valet. They find themselves in a Second Empire-style drawing room, with three sofas, a strangely horrifying bronze statue on the mantelpiece, no mirrors, and no windows. They can't re-open the locked door to which they entered the room.
Inez refuses to believe that they all ended up in the room by accident, and soon realizes that they have been placed together on purpose to make each other miserable forever. Garcin suggests that they try to leave each other alone in silence, but of course it doesn't work. The three characters argue for the entirety of the play about their personalities, cowardliness, past crimes, and love interests.
Towards the end, Estelle forgets that they are all actually dead, and unsuccessfully tries to kill Inez, stabbing her repeatedly with a paper knife. Shocked at the absurdity of his fate, Garcin concludes, "HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!"
"But that bronze contraption on the mantelpiece, that's another story. I suppose there will be times when I stare my eyes out at it. Stare my eyes out–see what I mean?
...a man's drowning, choking, sinking by inches, till only his eyes are just above water. And what does he see? A bronze atrocity by-- what's the fellow's name?–Barbedienne. A collector's piece. As in a nightmare."
My interpretation for this part of the room was a tombstone-like fireplace, with a heavy "bronze atrocity" that constantly feels like its about to fall off. In Second Empire drawing rooms, mirrors are usually found above the mantelpiece, so I left the frame as a tease.
There are supposed to be three sofas in this set: vivid green for Estelle, claret for Inez, and blue for Garcin. I took the liberty of combining Inez and Estelle's sofas into the "tête-à-tête" style that is found in much of the eclectic furniture from the Victorian era. The seating arrangement reinforces the fact that both of these women–who will never get along–are deprived of their personal space in Hell, and condenses the awkward tension between them into a physical object.