Fringe Online 2020
There are eight people online, part of a led discussion on the Theatre of Cruelty and Antonin Artaud by one of their number. The discussion begins fairly normally before distortion – which most of us have faced online – finally begins to take over with an uneasy chat line happening in front of us about weird dreams. It ends with applause and some full on distorted imagery as the sections finish and leave us with the sense that what we were temporarily part of may be our new reality in which theatre must now operate.
There is a sense here of navel gazing at the beginning which the piece manages to eventually throw off despite the sense of introspection being affected by outward forces. Almost midway through the temptation is to be more concerned as to why one of the people who ought to have been there cannot make it due to a post shower crisis; what could that possibly be? The reading of the text between the participants is a way in but it seemed we had a lot of set up that was, in the context of the length of the piece, labouring the point. By the time we get disrupted however I was intrigued as to see where this was heading.
I cannot discount my own reaction as being someone who has been in lockdown for 3 months and may be still looking for some form of instant gratification from my viewing and that is what this is challenging. To examine, as a reviewer, that I need to take a step back and look at this metaphor where the introduction was, I thought, over long but to make me question that there is a significant shift in our connections, marks an impressive ending. All credit therefore to Javaad Alipoor and his company for making that point.
Performances were great and you did get the feel of a company trying to be creative whilst also supportive which was the intention I think. Most were applauding the points being made towards the end and I felt that we had a cohesive whole that worked for us all.
The direction and the technical elements were highly effective and did the job they needed to do – I was disturbed, felt slightly alienated and then really intrigued as to where it was going.
Given the pedigree of Alipoor as a former Fringe First winner expectations of development should never be shelved or heightened and this certainly, for me, gave a real sense of a company that was confident in its own skin and looking to respond in a creative but not always direct way to the “plague” under which we currently suffer. It asks questions and that is what good theatre ought to be all about.