The Real – The Cockpit, London

Reviewer: John Cutler

Writer: Linnea Langfjord Kristensen

Director: Alan Fielden

Linnea Langfjord Kristensen’s The Real, currently playing at the Cockpit Theatre, offer a dystopian vision of a world bent on ensuring its citizens live up to their full potential, whether they like it or not. The state, symbolized in the form of a child (Lucy Spreckley), nags its subjects to keep busy, make progress, become independent and be the best they can be. Woe betide anyone tempted to ease off from the constant quest for improvement. The government, recording and watching your every move, will intimidate and harass you into compliance. But if dreams and desires are forced on you by a Kafkaesque Big Brother, how do you decide what in life is real and meaningful?

There is more than a touch of absurdism in how Langfjord Kristensen’s characters respond to the play’s central question. Drew (Drew Sheridan-Wheeler) lives a hermit-like existence, isolated from the world in a state of permanent self-induced amnesia. His life has no identifiable purpose, but he keeps busy making origami cabbages. The recluse’s childhood buddy Henriette (Henriette Laursen) calls on Drew each week but finds herself having the same conversation with him every time. In echoes of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, her visits are really just a way of occupying time and space rather than an occasion for real communication. Tom (Tom Cray) fills his time making notes for a novel that will probably never see the light of day, while flatmate Meg (Meg Lake) spends her days in an endless quest to help others.

The Real is grimly effective in capturing the feel of a humanity that refuses to slow down and think. The essential conflict here is between individuality and a controlling, domineering system with an agenda of its own. There is not much plot to speak of and occasionally the writing is baffling in its intent. But as a snapshot of a society devoid of real meaning, and an evocation of Langfjord Kristensen’s particular worldview, the work certainly has force.

The characters are all named after the actors. Perhaps the writer was just too busy to come up with names for them. Sheridan-Wheeler’s subtle and touching turn as the despairing amnesiac is the highlight of the evening. Alan Fielden’s direction provides a welcome dash of momentum to The Real’s sluggish early scenes, but there is not a huge amount of light and shade here, and the comic moments feel underworked.

Runs until 1 October 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Underwhelming dystopian absurdism

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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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