Review: C-Ω-N-T-α-C-T at the Cutty Sark, Thursday, 10th September, 2020.

First of all, and this isn’t a critical position, may indeed damage a critical position, but I am profoundly grateful to the organisations (Greenwich and Docklands International Festival), the venues (Bridge Theatre, White Bear in Kennington), and the actors (in this instance, Aoife Kennan and Charles Angiama for C-Ω-N-T-α-C-T), who have found ways to make live performance happen again; responsibly, imaginatively, brilliantly. I have missed this so much over the last six months, and being able to participate as an audience member makes me feel whole and engaged again. Theatre and performance are powerful and important things, sharing an experience with other people is a gift. So thank you. Thank you.

For this particular show, download the app onto your smart-phone [see below for weblinks], pitch up at the location you’ve selected with a fully charged phone and a set of comfy headphones, locate the front-of-housey, audience-greeting, tech. support person, follow instructions. I managed to forget my headphones, and Apple no longer allow me to plug a panic-purchased set of earbuds into my iPhone, curse you Apple, but the very helpful gentleman I met by the Cutty Sark enabled work-arounds for me and about half the rest of the audience, without so much as a sigh. Charge your phone and bring your own headphones.

You’re given a code to fire up your app, a voice in your ears tells you what you have to do (stand still and wait expectantly, really) and then the voice becomes the voice of a young woman. The young woman who has just emerged from the foot tunnel and started walking along the river-front, turns out. And she meets someone, they walk west along the river, they talk, they discover they can hear each other’s thoughts (rather like we can hear their thoughts) and her story unfolds as she and her companion and the eight weird people wearing headphones and following her at a pukka social distance, saunter towards Deptford.

It’s a smallish story, told with economy and grace, with a conclusion that makes you feel good. The tech is unobtrusive, the naturalistic acting in a real-world environment is impressive, and it’s a very interesting, very engaging show. And the fact that it happens in the middle of the Real World, that there are dozens of passers-by and pigeons and river traffic that is only distinguishable from the audience by lack of headphones (and you really notice just how many people in the Real World are wearing headphones… are they also audience? Also actors? Who knows?) makes it a seriously immersive show – you, the actors, the passers-by, the pigeons, all inhabiting the same space, but some of you are linked together and some of you aren’t, and it isn’t immediately apparent which is which. And that is sort of the point of the show, not wishing to give too much away – some of us are more connected, some of us have lost our links to the world and to other people. Coming out of five or six months of lockdown, that’s a big, important statement. This show is about becoming whole again. The world got very lonely this year, and C-Ω-N-T-α-C-T helped me to re-engage, for which I am grateful.

As I noted at the top, I am so ready to love any sort of show, but this was a good one, this was new, this was appropriate for the age of covid, this really worked.

See the company website on:

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