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The Empathy Experiment, Banshee Labyrinth Banquet Hall, Review

Billed as a spoken word performance, it’s a slight surprise when our host begins proceedings as a presentation, and not in the flowing proses you would normally expect; another example of the scope of this oft misunderstood genre. As she slips on her white lab coat, for this is a properly conducted experiment after all, Rose Condo explains what she is attempting to do; to survive 24 hours without her smartphone in an effort to reconnect with the world, to try to restore her empathy. And right now she has just entered hour 23. Only one more to go…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A charming hour of light heartedness, spoken word poetry and a chance to reflect on our obsession with our phone and how they distract us from the world around us.

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Billed as a spoken word performance, it’s a slight surprise when our host begins proceedings as a presentation, and not in the flowing proses you would normally expect; another example of the scope of this oft misunderstood genre. As she slips on her white lab coat, for this is a properly conducted experiment after all, Rose Condo explains what she is attempting to do; to survive 24 hours without her smartphone in an effort to reconnect with the world, to try to restore her empathy. And right now she has just entered hour 23. Only one more to go then but it’s becoming a strain for her.

Much like comic Dave Gorman at his utmost geekiness, Condo treats her topic as full-on science experiment. But whereas Gorman makes elaborate use of Powerpoint, Condo restricts herself to an easel and large printed cards to lead us through her experiment, gently leading us through the eight stages of experiments, from stage one, observation, through to final conclusions and lastly communicating results; that last stage being the show/ science lecture we are witnessing. Each stage is documented, and it is here that the real wordplay takes place; as Condo sets forth in communicating each in poetry that is at times humorous, at others clever and enticing. Her drifting into Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ territory is a clever touch, Give It Away becoming a battle cry of Put It Away, and as for her piece on Donald Trump and his obsession with his reflection, worthy of a whole show of its own.

Come the end, there is a zen like moment of contemplation, as we count to 44 seconds in silence; that being the average time someone will last before picking up their phone and looking at it if left on a table. It is another moment to realise that for all its humour and clever wordplay, there is a point being made here that is worth reflecting upon. It’s charming, it’s smile inducing and it’s a topic that everyone of us can nod an understanding to. How would we survive without touching or even looking at our phone for one day?

The Empathy Experiment is one of the many hidden gems that the Fringe is all about, located away in a dark basement of a pub down an easy to miss side street. And honestly, it is these little gems that are worth hunting out, because where else will you hear a Canadian artist ask you to hand over your mobile phones for an hour, and the whole audience actually doing so!

Note: The Empathy Experiment is part of the PBH Free Fringe, tickets are not required, but please do leave a donation for the artist when you leave the show, it helps them develop it further.

Written and performed by: Rose Condo
Dramaturgy by: Dominic Berry
Music composed by: Eleonora Rosca
Booking link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/empathy-experiment
Playing until: 25 August 2019

About Rob Warren

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Rob accidently ended up working in social housing as a temporary thing. That was ten years ago and hasn't got around to leaving just yet as it fits nicely in with his political views of the world. Started out writing music reviews. Spent many a happy night propping up bars in the back rooms of London's dodgiest music venues. Whilst he is still looking out for the next great band, Rob eventually got into theatre as you get to sit down rather than stand. Theatre was also kinder on the hearing, which had never recovered fully from the last Primal Scream gig he attended. Like his work, Rob tends to like his plays a little social leaning, which probably explains why he struggles to find people to go with him half the time.