Victory Condition at the Royal Court TheatreCultureTheatre
It would do Chris Thorpe’s Victory Condition a disservice to try and unpack it all after just one sitting. Words swarm. Images proliferate. Are we talking about a war-torn country from the present? The smashed plaster and faded logos of capitalism’s collapse in the future? The transition from one to the other?
But let’s step back for a second. In an apartment – that, for practical (nightly rep) reasons, is just a lavishly furnished version of Chloe Lamford’s flat from B – a couple have returned from holiday, enacting all the banalities associated with such a scenario. T-shirts are sniffed and thrown in the wash. An aborted home-cooked meal leads to pizza and wine. A new game is booted up on the Xbox 360.
Yet this is no tale of cuddly domesticity. As the actors – both mesmerising – go about their business they spout increasingly disturbing monologues, never allowing what they say to affect what they do. There’s Jonjo O’Neill’s intense, threatening Man, seemingly perched in a sniper’s nest in a country caught in the churn of revolution. Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s Woman starts in a far more recognisable place, an open plan office, only to travel through years, generations, hurtling towards a disorientating endgame.
The way the duelling monologues intertwine, both with each other and the physical minutiae of cohabitation, is deeply menacing. It renders the everyday pathetic, almost contemptible. It’s turning over the channel as the news comes on; flipping from an article about a mass shooting in Las Vegas to the new Star Wars trailer; hacking away at ghouls on Skyrim as bullets fly around the world. It’s the daily ignorance we maintain to insulate ourselves from the horrors happening elsewhere.
Or not. Those kinds of judgements aren’t explicit in the text, but rather one reading of the disconcerting vibe given off by Vicky Featherstone’s production. There’s more to it to than that: moments of perverse romance, dystopian terror, glitches in the matrix. Thorpe wants to make us work, especially at the start where the slipperiness of the premise means the audience is on ever shifting sands.
It’s refreshing to see a play of this type – a two-hander that could have easily found itself upstairs – given wider exposure on the Royal Court’s main stage. Thorpe’s writing is as beautiful as it is difficult, and paired with Guillermo Calderon’s (admittedly lesser) B the theatre has a knotty, thought-provoking evening on its hands.
Photo: Helen Murray
Victory Condition is at the Royal Court Theatre from 5th until 21st October 2017. For further information or to book visit the Royal Court Theatre website here.