Louise (Heather O’Sullivan) is a dental receptionist and the premise for Lowkey Dying suggests she might have gone too far with her tracking apps and her life online. This sounds familiar! Like her, I track things in my life: I have a spreadsheet for theatre visits, I log movies and I use the Streaks app to keep an eye on some bits and pieces.
O’Sullivan’s script is funny and definitely identifiable. There are a number of good laughs throughout and she has strong comedic chops. She smartly brings a full picture of Louise to the fore, showing us first what the character thinks of herself but then also cleverly shifting the narrative, as we begin to hear how her colleagues view her. Louise tells us that someone else came up with unflattering nicknames for her workmates, but later we find out she is the only person who uses the nicknames and presumably came up with them herself.
Billed as exploring ‘the internet, the self and the inevitable social media overdose’, Lowkey Dying then doesn’t really explore the internet or social media. It is mainly focused on the self: Louise’s anxieties and apparent lack of self-awareness. There is a slight parallel with the apps in that Louise has her life categorised; things fit into little ticky boxes and routines work for her, but this just doesn’t fit with how the play is billed. There is nothing wrong with a play not being what an audience expects, but to have the premise itself be so different from the advertising seems a bit of an odd choice, and I don’t think it’s an intentional one. Part of the problem is that we hear very little about Lowkey Dying’s advertised premise in the body of the play. Apps that track various aspects of our lives and the behaviours we think are beneficial – drinking water etc, get a brief mention early on, but then just vanish from the narrative and become almost irrelevant until they come strongly into focus at the end. It doesn’t quite hang together.
O’Sullivan does, however, give a strong and engaging performance, which helps. She’s extremely expressive, skilled at bringing a range of characters to life, and more than keeps the audience’s interest throughout. At times, she uses it almost as a passive but reactive participant, stopping and holding for response or raising an eyebrow for reaction. This has some success, but as it is mainly directed towards the front row, the effect is lessened for the rest of the spectators. There is a clear energy between O’Sullivan and those immediately in front of her, but in the auditorium beyond the impression fades and this serves to then disconnect a part of the audience.
Additionally, there is impressive work on the tech side, under the direction of Lauren O’Leary. Light and sound are perfectly timed to be part of a scene or a movement change.
Lowkey Dying offers much to like, and perhaps the biggest issue with it is simply how the play is advertised. Change that up to better reflect the work presented and there is a lot of promise for the future after this short run at Omnibus Theatre.
Written by: Heather O’Sullivan
Directed by: Lauren O’Leary
Produced by: Discoland
Lowkey Dying has completed its current run.