Camden Fringe 2018:  at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre
Writer John Barron and director Wanda Duszynska took on a daunting challenge when they set out to explore the baffling and elite world of tech and surveillance through a 30-minute fringe play. Incredibly, though bereft of high production value, elaborate sets or special effect stunts, the duo manage to get to the core of our contemporary troubles around data, privacy and truth. The way they do this is not by preaching or pizazz but by letting the uncertainties lie. Like its title,  leaves as many blanks as it fills in, packing so much plot and so many twists into its brief running time that the audience is left disoriented and hesitant about who to trust and, more vitally, where the power lies.
Barron’s script is dizzyingly fast. The actors switch incessantly between dialogue, fourth-wall-breaking narration and announcing in booming voices the latest news, blogs and viral trends. This mix and movement aptly represents the overcrowded world of constant content and stimulation while our main character, Daniel, sets about undermining a global media conspiracy alongside Lucy, a seemingly unstable woman he met in Bank tube station. Instead of stepping back and letting the dialogue run as it could have done, Duszynska’s direction adds another layer of claustrophobia and pressure. Her choreography and meticulous use of a mostly empty stage conjure up an uncanny version of London’s rush hour, with the four actors cramming together into what at first seem like romantic embraces until you realise they are just on the Northern Line.
The bustle and noise of the writing and direction really allow the actors to shine. Graeme Sanders gives a wonderful performance in the lead role, sighing from within his mac and lanyard in the strong tradition of the put-upon English everyman. Claire Durrant plays off his energy to storm the role of the otherworldly and impassioned Lucy. Even Emma Duke and Lawrence Ellis – who both ricochet between roles as security guards, commuters and newsreaders – have distinctive personality and flair in their performances, a true testament to the production.
All of this culminates in a smart and perceptive piece. The staging perfectly taps into the feeling of reading the news and realising, yet again, that the floor from under your normal has been pulled out to reveal something more complex and concerning than you can handle. Each time a finger is pointed and blame apportioned, that person slips away or takes off a mask to reveal a new level of disconcertion. This is fringe theatre at its finest.
Camden Fringe 2018:  is at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre from 15th August until 19th August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.