Tuesday, 10 October 2017
Review Victory Condition
by Chris Thorpe
This is the kind of play you'll be either for or against. A sweeping statement, TLT and her four wheeled companion know, but this is a binary play you'll (ok, probably) either love or hate.
But to proceed. A man and woman (we never get to know names) unlock the door of their modern, pretty plush flat (design by Chloe Lamford) and wheel in their brightly coloured, plastic mould suitcases.
They go about unpacking both their luggage and their minds in an apparent stream-of-consciousness.
He (Jonjo O'Neill), it appears, is either an assassin or, influenced by a computer game he starts to play later on, imagines he is one. She (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), more plausibly for the world TLT inhabits, seems to work for an advertising agency.
Their minds range over multiple images and subjects which obviously colonize their minds - his more intent on warfare and spaceships. Her thoughts concentrates more on her personal frailty and the possibility of collapse in a public place and the abuse of a trafficked child.
O'Neill's Northern Irish accent and Duncan-Brewster's London accent gives some variation - even though there are glimpses of the Ukraine in O'Neill's monologue, the talk of barricades also has resonance for Northern Ireland.
Duncan-Brewster's image of collapsing, on her back and helpless on an underground station platform with a brain haemorrhage, is a potent image. However, the audience is never given the chance to connect with much in the intercut monologues.
The couple (the audience is given enough to work out they are a couple) move around the well-organized flat doing whatever they feel needs doing and consuming whatever takeaway food and images that they want to consume.
Our expectation was that something would happen to bring a recognizable narrative rather than an attempt solely to bring thoughts on to the stage - albeit in fully formed words and sentences.
The overall impression was of a dream where you see yourself rather than view the world from inside your own head and you know that it's all wrong.
There also seem to be enormous assumptions. Our first thought was that they worked as airplane stewards. Looking at the play text, it appears they've come back from a holiday in Greece. And that's part of the problem.
Why put something like Greece, which does have a resonance, in play text stage directions when it has has no bearing on what the audience members see and hear in the performance?
TLT wouldn't always make this point about the differencce between the printed and performed script but here at least one person involved in the production is assuming that everyone thinks in the same way she or he does.
The same goes for the title of the two internal monologues - Victory Condition. There was no clue in the piece TLT watched as to what this term means - an assumption that everyone in the audience must know gaming terms. However TLT can't pretend that knowing this term now makes the play itself any more comprehensible.
The blurb says Victory Condition is "An attempt to get to grips with the fact that everything happens at once. And to see if there’s anything we can do about it." Maybe. There's a lot of maybes with this play.
Maybe it's an attempt to make some kind of correlation between infinite psychic space and the non finite nature of computer games. Maybe it's a tease but if so, it's a rather mind-numbing, frustrating and ultimately boring one.
Maybe writer Chris Thorpe will collect all the Victory Ambition reviews and turn them into some sort of play. TLT and her engineered companion or a TLT reviewing colleague would still turn up 😉, but in the meantime it's a red/amber light.