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24, 23, 22 – Chronic Insanity

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Writer: Douglas Deans

Director: Joe Strickland

Being able to handle conflict and setbacks in a healthy way is part of growing up. However, it’s only human to slip up every so often. Those slips mean that we lose control of already poor situations and a perfectly OK day can quickly turn sour.

In 24, 23, 22 Douglas Deans explores what happens when two fairly normal, slightly lonely and unfortunate people make poor decisions under pressure. We follow Fran from the start of her day to the end, whereas Brendon’s story begins at the end and rewinds back to when he wakes up feeling positively about the day’s potential. They meet in the middle when she’s just had a terrible day, and he decides to steal her bag.

Told simultaneously, the viewer needs to watch one story on a computer and the other on a phone or other screen at the same time. There’s also a choice to make in who you want to watch – four actors play two parts (Joe Strickland or Joe Matty as Brendon and Ruth Page or Helena Rimmer as Fran) with the audience choosing who to watch as the piece starts. It’s a neat way to exploit the necessities of online performance and the Chronic Insanity team should be proud of that. Unfortunately, the end result just doesn’t quite do the experiment justice.

The technicalities are against the production from the start. We’re trying to follow two separate timelines on two devices. While Brendon’s stream goes still while Fran’s is active, hers plays a continuously evolving stream of basic Instagram story updates (are they important to the story or just a way of filling space?) Everything about it drags our attention and cognition in different directions, making it close to impossible to properly focus on what we’re supposed to and makes it hard to grab and internalise the nuance in each person’s story.

The different styles in the two stories are a slight jar as well. With Joe Matty’s piece, for example, the disconnect between what he’s saying and what’s shown visually via his locations and actions is off-putting. At one stage, he narrates himself running down an alley when he’s clearly on a busy main road. A small detail, but when it’s all we’re looking at, it makes a difference. In addition, we’re watching his day (backwards) more-or-less as it happens – he’s running, falling, stealing, waking up in front of us. She, however, is telling us about the events as if we’re a friend and it all happened last week.

The underlying theory here is fairly sound. These two characters are sympathetic – their lashings out are cries for notice, attention and self assertion. In that respect, it’s a nice execution of a story familiar to us all – searching for long term connection and meaning in a period of loneliness. But it’s a struggle to get through and make the connection with them over the clumsiness of how their world’s constructed.

Runs here until 31 Dec 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Good plan, poor execution

User Rating: 4.25 ( 2 votes)

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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