Creators: Kas Darley, Sarah Finigan, Tasha Magigi, Bernadette Russell and Michael Wagg
Director: Mark Stevenson
Lockdown living has prompted many to question what it is they really want from life. Work, play, love and everything else is under scrutiny and the conclusions being reached after long periods of reflection are surprising some people. This questioning of what an ideal life should and could be seems to be the driving force behind The House that Slipped – presenting a picture of a potential utopia and then inducing each participant in the live video Zoom call to either support staying in this idealised world, or accepting 2020 the way it is.
The audience dials into a Zoom call with the residents of 12 Laburnum Drive, Brockley, who (through some odd occurrence) found themselves going to bed on the 22nd of April 2020 and waking up on the 23rd of April 2070. We’re told that “all the zoom action in 2020 created a tear in the space time continuum to 2070” through which the house slipped – and for a while, it genuinely sounded plausible. In the intervening years, there has been a mass destruction of history, so the residents are keen to hear from the audience what life is like through the summer of Coronavirus. In doing so, we hear all about their new world – the equality, the environmental security, the utopian society and advanced robotic technologies (and dances) that have emerged. As good as it sounds, however, some of the group want to go home to their own time, and enlist the audience through conversations in Zoom breakout rooms to help make the group decision to stay or go.
The interactivity is this work’s strongest and weakest point. Having group discussions about real issues, questioning how things are going and injecting a few laughs along the way is enjoyable. However, it does mean the performance feels largely unscripted. Bound by time in breakout rooms and group chats, the content felt stretched to fit at times – large sections were filler, no killer. The overall storyline, with Sarah Finigan’s Sandra providing much emotional heft through the hard choices the character needs to make, is thoughtful and touching.
It’s a piece born of necessity – making a virtue of needing to perform live theatre over a video connection. It does a really good job of working out a structure within the medium of delivery to tell this story. Additionally, with an in-person, socially distanced celebration for their return on the 8th of August they’re making full use of the current boundaries.
It’s hard to shake that feeling of stretching the content to fit the time, however, which is a risk with any theatre that relies on an audience to provide content as well as the performers. It didn’t quite work out on the night, but a full week of performances mean many chances for unique shows that carry off the valid, and thoroughly interesting message, at the core of this work.
Runs here until 8 August