The Theatreguide.London Review
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs Winter 2019
To be appreciated more
as a technical exercise than for its content, Eve Leigh's new play is
a challenge to director, performers and audiences.
script deliberately withholds any clues to performance, not dividing
the text up into separate speeches or even indicating how many
performers there should be (except for indicating that any number
would be 'too many').
She does suggest that
one or more actor might
be disabled and that some of the words might be delivered through
means other than voice.
So it is evidently
director Rachel Bagshaw
who chose one speaking male performer (Tom Penn) and one silent
female performer (Nadia Nadarajah) and assigned lines to them.
Nadarajah delivers hers
through a mix of sign language and mime,
while Penn speaks his as well as hers. (At times he seems to be
translating her signs for our benefit, at others she appears to react
in gesture to what he says.)
Meanwhile all the words are also projected onto the back wall of the set as spoken or signed (Note to lighting designer – not always brightly enough to be read legibly), and Penn also occasionally plays a drum kit and/or sings in a countertenor.
The situation we piece
together is of one or more feverish insomniacs
getting through the night by random surfing of the web, creating a
collage of images and half-stories.
A viral video of a woman
to fight an invisible foe bumps against a parable of a drunken god
and a memory of a night of sex in Berlin. Glimpses of an insidious
online game that challenges players to ever-more-dangerous stunts mix
with a film noir image of strangers in a car.
If the play does
sometimes capture the dreamlike random logic of a racing mind in the
sleepless hours, what it adds up to is disappointingly banal and
It can be easier for the
isolated to make connections
online than in real life. The internet can be dangerous for
impressionable young people. While our real bodies are limited and
imperfect, created online identities can feel powerful and eternal.
If you feel it takes no
ghost come from the grave to tell us this,
you can sense the ultimate disappointment of Leigh's play.
she had more successfully evoked the seductive power of the internet,
to help us feel how it sucks people into finding it more real than
reality, the warnings about its dangers would resonate more. But her
characters are not particularly addicted but just using it to fill
some sleepless hours, not too enjoyably.
The director deserves credit for carving some coherence out of the text and the two performers for fully-committed immersion in the production style. But you won't be able to escape the sense that there is less here than meets the eye.
Receive alerts every time we post a new review