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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Victory Condition
Royal Court Theatre  Autumn 2017

Chris Thorpe's new play is more a prose poem than a theatrical event, operating more through evocation and imagery than linear narrative. 

As such, it has its moments, but even at less than an hour's running time, it may not be able to hold your attention throughout. 

A man and a woman enter a flat. (The published text tells us they are returning from a holiday in Greece, but that is never mentioned, nor is it particularly relevant.) They unpack, start to prepare a meal but instead eat mysteriously delivered pizza and watch a little television. 

They clearly inhabit the same time and space, since they share various props, but they otherwise never acknowledge each other. Instead, they alternate in speaking separate monologues, with no indication of addressing or hearing each other. 

In the published script Chris Thorpe actually prints the two monologues as separate uninterrupted blocks of text, leaving it to a director to decide where to break and interleave them, so another production might take a different shape from director Vicky Featherstone's.

(Featherstone also cuts the text extensively, including an entire seven-page closing scene in which the two characters would finally interact.) 

The man's monologue is of a sniper in the Bosnian War, feeling an intense connection to the person who is his target in the seconds before he pulls the trigger. 

The woman's is more elusive and allusive, describing everyday experiences that seem to lose their solidity even as she has them, so that she begins to wonder whether the world around her, or she herself, is real, or part of someone else's imagination, or even some cosmic computer program left to run unattended. 

If there is a common thread to the several levels of the play it is disconnection. 

The man and woman might as well each be alone (especially with the omission of that last scene), the sniper's intense emotional connection with his victim betrays an alienation from everything else, and the woman's uncertainty about the solid reality of anything is the product of having nothing solid to connect to. 

But, as metaphysically intriguing as any of that might be, it is an intellectual construct and not a dramatic one, the audiovisual aide to an academic lecture and not a piece of living theatre. 

For all their dedication, neither director Vicky Featherstone nor actors Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Jonjo O'Neill can make it come alive.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Victory Condition - Royal Court Theatre 2017  
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