Thursday, 3 September 2020

REVIEW: C-o-n-t-a-c-t, a socially distanced outdoor experience


 
Since March, theatre has been virtually non-existent. As a nation, we have relied on virtual entertainment and arts to get us through the dreaded lockdown. Netflix, and latest phenomenon Disney+ have kept our creative juices flowing, but nothing can compare to the experience of seeing LIVE theatre. Therefore, you can imagine how thrilled I was to grab a ticket to the UK premiere of C-o-n-t-a-c-t, a socially distanced outdoor experience. 

Yes, that’s right! Theatre is BACK ladies and gents, and more creative than ever. 

Originating in France throughout summer in a world where “keep 2m apart” and avoiding coughing is the new normal, “C-o-n-t-a-c-t” delivers a modern and relatable story exploring the complexities of living with mental health and anxiety in the present day. 

The story is told through the eyes (and thoughts!) of Sarah, who is approached by a man she believes to be a stranger. Little does she know; this man knows her much better than she thinks! 

The show is performed in a promenade style, meaning it continues to move throughout the streets of London during the performance. The production is currently being performed in three locations: Monument (Central), Clapham Common (South), and Cutty Sark (Greenwich). I saw the 6PM Press Night performance at the Monument location on the 2nd September 2020. All three locations perform the same production. As an audience member following the show, you almost feel like the ghost of Christmas past, invisible and unrecognisable. Using 3D sound design, each audience member listens to the entire show through headphones, using an app specifically designed for C-o-n-t-a-c-t. After downloading the audio file, it synchronizes the audience and actors together allowing the show to play with truly unique theatrical concepts through advanced technology. 

This truly allows you to dive into Sarah’s inner monologue, her thoughts, struggles and revelations; an outsider getting an intimate look in. 

As a concept, I think this production is a theatrical experience like no other on the market currently. It is certainly unlike any production I have seen in recent years and is an extremely effective and clever way to keep theatre alive, current, and safe during these uncertain times. International Director Samuel SenĂ© therefore can be nothing short of applauded by members and fans of the theatre community. 

However, sadly I felt the concept was stronger than the material and plot itself. The text started extremely strong, and almost unexpectedly. It allowed us to be introduced to lead actress Laura White (Sarah) naturally, as though she was a passer-by in the street. Nevertheless, as the story progressed the plot and text became wordy, hard to follow and at times confusing. It almost felt as though there were missed opportunities to explore and indulge within emotions and elements such as comedy further. I would have loved to see the text incorporate and acknowledge its surrounding more, for example, pointing out landmarks such as The Shard, and London Bridge. However, as this audio track is used for all locations, I can understand why this would be more complex to deliver. Overall, I think elements of the script could use work. 

Credit must be given however to Laura White, who carried the production with ease, synchronisation, and relatability. She was able to emote the exact tonal quality and expression you heard from the audio file, without saying a single word out loud. Her performance was naturalistic and relatable. 

Sadly, while second supporting actor Max Gold, who played Raphael was unexpected, and had pleasant moments; on the whole, his performance felt less effective, and at times a little too literal and gestural. 

If you are dying to dive back into the theatre world, I would recommend giving this production a watch. It’s a unique concept and performance style delivers and explores a new form of dramaturgy that is well worth seeing. While the script is weak at points, it does also contain enjoyable and comedic moments that are certainly entertaining. As a community, we must get behind theatre, no matter it’s style, therefore for that reason alone, I would recommend you buy a ticket! LET’S GET THEATRE BACK AND THRIVING! 

TOP TIP: Take a brolly, download the app prior to arriving, and take a good quality set of headphones (you must provide your own). 

Review by Adam Tipping 

Rating: 

31 August – 10 October 2020

Timings: 16:30/18:00/19:30

Tickets - £22.50

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