Writer: Noga Flaishon
Director: Kitty Ball
The Living Record Festival has got off to a flying start, and with so many shows to stream over the next month there is something for everyone. Broken Link, an eerie conversation over Zoom, may attract those looking for an old-fashioned ghost story about guilt and grief. A show to be experienced over two screens Noga Flaishon’s story is initially gripping, but it peaks too soon.
Five years ago Ellie committed suicide by jumping off the water tower close to a dreary unnamed town. Every year since, Ellie’s closest family and friends hold a memorial at the bottom of the tower, but with the national lockdown this year’s ceremony has to be held over Zoom.
First on, is Ellie’s twin brother James (Harry Ryan) and he’s quickly joined by Ellie’s boyfriend Luke (Kieron Michael). While Luke has managed to work through his grief – he’s continued his career with the police force and has a new girlfriend – James is still angry with his sister for taking her life. Megan (Rachel Chima) Ellie’s best friend gave up her plans to go to university after Ellie’s death and now works in the local pub. Holly (Ida Regan) is the last to join the call, and soon it becomes clear that Ellie’s work colleague is now Luke’s new girlfriend.
As the four remember Ellie with eulogies and alcohol, it becomes obvious that James is not coping well; the bedroom we see behind him is a mess and he’s been drinking too much and calling Megan in the middle of the night. She is exasperated with him, and wishes that he could accept that fact that his sister wanted to take her own life. But their argument is interrupted by a new participant on the Zoom call: a real ghost in the machine.
These early minutes of Broken Link are the best, and the tension is heightened by the texts that come by video through one’s phone. Just remember to start the show on the laptop at exactly the same time as the video on the phone to ensure synchronicity between the two screens.
However, the identity of the mysterious caller and their reason for Zoombombing the call are unveiled too quickly, and the rest of the show drags a little, even though Flaishon has some interesting ideas about the way grief can shatter people’s ambitions and cleave their confidence. This examination of mourning sits uncomfortably with the ghost story, and as a result Broken Link struggles to satisfy completely.
In the recent months we have discovered that digital theatre can be scary. Darkfield’s three shows have terrified audiences and New Perspectives Theatre delivered its horror story through WhatsApp to chilling effect. Broken Link ultimately replaces fear for pathos, and while the acting is all first rate, you can’t help but wish this was a little more menacing.
Runs here until 22 February 2021
The Living Record Festival runs here from 17 January to 22 February 2021