In Tandem at Paines Plough Online
The lockdown presented a set of challenges that each individual dealt with slightly differently, but there have definitely been trends and similarities with regards to how people reacted. In Tandem is an online play that could be described as a quarantine video diary. It follows the experience of a young woman in London as she video calls her mother, and a couple in Krakow tackling boredom as they face their TV set all day long. The production is part of the festival named The Place I Call Home, and is delivered in bite-size scenes sent straight to the viewer’s inbox twice a day over three days.
The first instalment introduces Ella, who must self-isolate away from her mother, a nurse. Ella is fearful of seeing her relationships fade and wither and so she actively tries to nurture them. In a video call between mother and daughter, Ella talks of her houseplants, reminding her mother that even the most resilient cactus eventually requires water, just as the strongest people need some attention eventually. The conversations between the two are different in nature from their face-to-face encounters. Since there are no social events to discuss, they talk of their feelings and memories, getting to know each other in new ways.
In another home, a Polish couple is feeling the strain of the enforced and prolonged intimacy. They try to pass their time in the best way possible, but they have very different ideas of what this entails. She wants to improve herself, learn new skills and remain active, while he wants to bear the lockdown burden quietly with as little stress as possible. While she tries new forms of meditation, he watches an endless loop of cooking shows. Their contrasting outlooks reflect two common reactions that many had, and result in a domestic tragicomedy.
The way in which the scenes of the play arrive via email at different times could make the production feel scattered and may deter viewers from following through from beginning to end. In Tandem, however, is an effective and well-executed portrayal of the experience that overwhelmed the world en masse. The London segments feel very realistic and manage to reveal the mother-daughter relationship and its subtle evolution without overdoing the dialogue. The Krakow scenes fit the classic marital satire of misunderstandings between the cynical man and optimistic woman, but it’s updated to fit the pandemic context, which results in amusing exchanges.
Pertinent and authentic, In Tandem documents the lockdown as experienced by many, and it does so in a manner that encourages reflection on what this challenge brought up, what it knocked down and what it transformed.
In Tandem is at Paines Plough Online from 26th October until 31st October and from 3rd until 5th November 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.