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In The Loop, LOST Theatre

Jennifer Sarah Dean

Directed by Jennifer Sarah Dean
★★★
Pros: The production’s sense of urgency, its ambiguity, its use of space, its assured acting, and its daring treatment of some important issues (memory, truth, testimony, consequence) make for an absorbing half-hour. 
Cons: The whole thing dashes past breathlessly. The audience might have benefitted from some opportunities to reflect on the intriguing scenario set before them. 
Our Verdict: A bold piece that certainly commands attention and encourages later reflection on some salient issues. 
Courtesy of the Undiscovered Theatre Company
Laura is holding a box and has been shot in the stomach. Jack enters. Laura gives Jack a key and tells him that they will meet again but that she won’t remember him (typical). She also tells him to beware a man called Ahmed, who Jack must detain in this room. Laura leaves, a man enters. Jack believes him to be Ahmed, but he is Bradley. When Ahmed does arrive, he quickly takes exception to Jack’s efforts to detain him, urinates in a hip-flask, and then gets shot (standard). Laura and Bradley then start kissing, and Jack turns into a journalist. Confused? 
It is certainly possible to get lost a little as In The Loop spins speedily towards its abrupt and inconclusive finale. But perhaps the confusing structure, and the lack of a helping hand from the writer, is suitable – after all, if a play takes as its subject such things as the fragility of truth, the difficulty of consensus, and the laws of consequence (or lack thereof), perhaps it is smart to present such issues in an equally confusing dramatic structure, so as to add to a large feeling of dislocation, and to keep the audience guessing and on-edge. 
The set, designed by Milan-based Susanna Della Sala, certainly contributes to the unusual, almost timeless atmosphere conjured by the script, as does the acting. As Brian, Paul Markey does a fine job at not remembering things; Ed Allenby as Jack succeeds in conveying a gamut of emotions – horror, panic, incredulity; Fahad Salman as Ahmed has a natural menace about him, quietly adding to the play’s underlying sense of threat; and Clare Harlow’s Laura manages to shift between warmth and menace seamlessly. 
In The Loop is one of 18 new plays which make up the LOST Theatre’s One Act Festival, which has been running for over thirty years, with three works presented each night for six nights. An important aspect of the festival is the provision of professional feedback after the show. Paul Vale of The Stage suggested that the piece could have been better paced (i.e. slowed down a little), and I tend to agree. For example, we learn towards the end of the piece that Jack and Bradley have history – that Bradley was on the receiving end of a piece of Jack’s journalism – but the matter is dealt with so quickly that it almost doesn’t register, despite it being an interesting development to their relationship. Intrigue is a powerful dramatic currency, and this play generates a lot of it. A little more time for the audience to dwell on their intrigue, to untangle the knots before them, wouldn’t have done any harm at all. 
What is nice about the play is that as an audience we feel very caught-up in the protagonist’s ordeal. As Jack tries to figure all that is going on, so do we. Jack’s knowledge of events is apace with our own – a symmetry which strengthens our engagement with his crisis. In summary, then, In The Loop, which is writer/director Jennifer Sarah Dean’s debut, is certainly a roundabout way of responding to the shooting by London Met police in 2005 of Jean Charles de Menezes (at least I think this is what the play is reacting to), and the various issues that arose in response to that criminal botch-up. But the roundabout approach works, I think. Sometimes it’s nice to feel out of the loop. 
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

In The Loop ran as part of the LOST Theatre’s 2013 One Act Festival, where it received a ‘Highly Commended’ accolade. For more information please visit http://www.theundiscoveredtheatrecompany.info/current-projects.html.

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