Drowntown Lockdown at the Barbican Online
“I see you. I see the anguish and the suffering of your families. Tears leak from their mouths. And wash away. The sea cries when they push their knowing hands on our heads and push us under again and again and again,” we hear as close-ups of the cast’s faces splash onto the screen, wide-eyed and searching.
Drowntown Lockdown is a 15-minute film which acts as a prologue to the Rhiannon Faith Company’s stage production Drowntown. Rescheduled for 2021 in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Drowntown Lockdown shows the cast in their respective houses. We are given a brief snapshot into their lives before they leave for the beach, where the stage production begins.
Intense, ominous sounds play as we watch the performers writhing in their bedrooms or crying over old pictures. The music doesn’t have a lot of recognisable instruments and feels more like sounds than melodies. It’s not what you’d choose to listen to on the bus, but it works well in this video. Water is a constant motif in Drowntown Lockdown. Often seen as calming and tranquil, this sea is bleak and uncaring, as if it’s watching the performers and waiting to devour them.
Drowntown Lockdown incorporates interesting camera angles – from split screen close-ups of the cast screaming, to intimate, slightly lower close-up angles which show the raw emotion swishing around the performers’ faces, and spinning shots which create a claustrophobic, out-of-control feel. Some shots are sped up, making you feel like your heart is racing.
The movements often look like swimming – reaching up and gasping as the shot is cut with the sea. At one point, a construction worker clasps his head, the video blurring into two simultaneous shots as he learns Boris Johnson is “keen” to get construction up and running. The almost ghostly shadow of the performer looms over him as the shots combine, turning his twisted movements into a spidery illusion.
Drowntown Lockdown explores isolation, depression, OCD, helplessness and despair through movement, words, music and camera angles. It doesn’t spell anything out for the audience, but the feelings it evokes are things many of us have felt – perhaps before lockdown and almost certainly during it. This video makes you want to follow the characters to the beach and learn more about them. It isn’t exactly fun to watch, but it is incredibly powerful and important. Drowntown Lockdown explores complex, difficult feelings which may resonate with the viewer and show them that they are not alone.
Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulos