Camden Fringe 2019: Tethered at the Cockpit Theatre
Tethered is a play that explores one of the most commonly used pieces of technology in 2019: VR. However, rather than exploring its most familiar employment – entertainment at its most basic level – the cast of the production investigate the tech for its medical applications. Through physical theatre, the cast of Contents May Differ demonstrate how through the use of VR, the character of Alice can dance again, despite being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Directed by Michael Entwistle, the show is a highly physical piece that explores the strong theme of identity. We are presented with five characters whose lives are all interwoven, resulting in a seismic shift in the group dynamic if someone’s life changes. Alice (Emily Flo Carter), a dancer, and her new fiancé Kevin (Daniel Chrisostomou) kick off their engagement with a party, inviting Alice’s brother Jamie (Mitch Howell), Jamie’s girlfriend Katie (Elizabeth Fitzpatrick) and old friend Jess (Amelie Leroy).
The audience is quick to learn that something is not quite right with Alice, as she expresses symptoms of exhaustion and achiness. The character’s identity is ripped away from her when, with the help of junior doctor Katie, she is diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. As Alice starts to deteriorate, her brother Jamie buys her a VR headset to allow her mind to be elsewhere, not focusing on the pain.
The visualisation of the VR world is the strongest element of the performance. When Alice puts the headset on, the audience is transported to a dreamlike world, accompanied by LED lighting and haunting music. The cast members carry out physical sequences around Alice, equipped with masks and white gloves, the latter drawing parallels to a real VR experience. These sequences draw on the play’s main theme, showing that when the protagonist is using the headset she is nameless and faceless, not Alice with a disability; she can be whoever she wants to be.
Entwistle has chosen to have the production staged in-the-round, which lends itself to the constant changing of props across the minimal set. The supporting cast members do well to keep the play flowing through the set changes, the fluid motion only highlighting Alice’s immobility more.
The script, written by Lilac Yosiphon, is compelling during fuelled dialogue between Alice and fiancé Kevin, but falls short when it comes to the other characters, who lack a developed story arc as the story progresses.
Tethered is a piece that stays true to its name; but is Alice tethered to her bed, or to the powerful technology of VR itself? As the protagonist is carried to another world, the audience is given an education in the true powers of this transformative device. We are left feeling hopeful that this technology really can achieve something good.
Tethered is at the Cockpit Theatre from 12th until 13th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
For further information about Camden Fringe 2019 visit the festival website here.