Directed by: Samuel Sené
Original Idea by: Gabrielle Jourdain
What with government Covid laws flip-flopping all over the place, and an audience desperately hungry for real-life content, theatre has been largely left to work it out for itself. But beyond the currently ubiquitous monologue, it’s hard to consider another form that would work within the guidelines. C-o-n-t-a-c-t presents, not only an utterly original solution, but also an idea that holds water regardless of the current restrictions.
Equipped with headphones and a synched audio, an audience of fifteen follows Sarah (Laura White for this performance) along the Thames, listening to her inner monologue, the song she can’t get out of her head overlapping with thoughts about birdsong or the scratch on her boot that she’s just noticed.
A strange man, Raphael (Max Gold), interrupts her contemplations, seeming at first to be merely a chatty stranger. But when he reveals he can also hear Sarah’s thoughts, it’s clear that he’s no ordinary person, and this meeting isn’t just by chance.
The concept stumbles a little when it transpires that Raphael can hear Sarah’s thoughts via headphones. Seems a bit bizarre that an other-worldly being should have to rely on technology for his magic powers. But the idea of following someone around the busy streets of London, listening in to their stream-of-consciousness, is brilliant. Whilst there’s some interesting tension between the two characters, it might have been better if we were left with only Sarah, or even a few other interior monologues as they pass by, rather than trying to tie in some idea of the supernatural.
But even the story itself aside, it is such a joy to be out and about in central London again, the Tower Bridge serving as a perfectly picturesque backdrop. There are four locations to choose from, and no doubt each has been picked for the audience to rediscover this city that, for months now, we have inhabited but rarely seen. Being in the audience feels like part of the performance; following someone around who appears unaware of her audience, as unsuspecting joggers and pedestrians weave their way through this strange, silent group.
As the theatre world begins to slowly pick itself back up, with creaking joints and dazed vision, C-o-n-t-a-c-t is a brilliant first day back, and a hopeful sign of good things to come.
Available until 10 October 2020