Online and interactive
As the coronavirus rolls on inexorably through the summer, we are left to dream about the things that make us feel normal. Denied the buzz of live theatre performers will always find a way to improvise. Nottingham based theatre company Chronic Insanity have devised this ingenious piece all through Microsoft Outlook and YouTube. Having purchased a ticket online you wait for an email from Connor. We the audience are cast in the role of best friend as he copes with separation from the love of his life.
The email duly arrived just after 6pm. A blokish Connor (Joe Strickland), eager to please, immediately makes you feel like a confidante such is tone of his email. He wants you to listen to a new song dedicated to his soul mate. He’s looking for feedback, what do you think of it? He’s desperate for reassurance that it will have the desired effect. A link to a YouTube video features Connor in all his nervous glory as he performs an original song. Straight away I’m in familiar mode as the sympathetic shoulder to cry on. Such is the writer’s skill I feel protective of Connor; the sensitive, genuine soul who bruises far too easily. I nervously email him back treading the line between hopeful support and brutal honesty. A succession of emails and videos follow as you counsel Connor on the most important relationship in his life.
Conduit is a remarkably observant piece because itcreates a character you immediately care about. He could easily be your brother, son, nephew or simply a friend in need of a sounding board. We all know someone like Connor and maybe even recognise something of ourselves in him. We might tease the Connors of this world for their intensity and lack of humour. But he shows the insecurity that lurks deep inside us all; the need to love and emotional dependence we invest in that special person.
For all its strengths there are inevitably some weaknesses about the production. You wait an indeterminate amount of time for emails to arrive. We might only be talking about a few minutes but feels much longer than that. So you get up; make a cup of tea, go to the toilet, switch the TV on; all of the things you would never do in the theatre. This breaks the tension even though we know responses are tailored for the individual viewer. Even so, this is a highly original piece that is better than most presentations you will find online. I wonder what this company might achieve on stage.
Written by: Joe Strickland
Artistic Directors: Nat Henderson and Joe Strickland
Produced by: Chronic Insanity
Streaming Until: Sunday 5 July 2020