24, 23, 22 at Chronic Insanity Online
Perspective is a fickle thing. Just when one has a handle on a situation, understanding can shift and new viewpoints can emerge… especially when one’s experience is backwards.
This is the central idea behind Chronic Insanity’s new gig-theatre production, 24, 23, 22. Told through a dual-cast format (two videos playing simultaneously on two separate devices), the show alternates between telling the stories of Fran and Brendan: hers is about a regular day in a nightmare job and is in chronological order; his is about a horrendous event and is in reverse-chronological order. She moves forwards in time, he moves backwards, and both revolve around a core central mystery – it’s The Last Five Years meets Memento.
To make matters even more high-concept, audiences have their choice of performer: each role can be played by two different actors, with viewers able to select who performs the story for them each time – they can mix and match. In this regard, each repeat viewing can offer a new brand new perspective of the story… which may be necessary. Indeed, working out what’s actually happening is really half the battle. The actors’ monologues are so disparate at first, audiences can be forgiven for being confused. Is Brendan dead? Why’s Fran catching a bus? How do they know each other? What’s this all building up to? As each story progresses (and regresses), questions arise and fall and mysteries are slowly unravelled (although not totally).
Amid this confusion, the central theme of subverting perspective is expertly handled. Just as the action shifts from screen to screen, so do the characters oscillate between victims and villains. Even at the end, their true morality remains shrouded in mystery. It’s a thoughtful and inventive approach to this well-trod trope, finding fireworks where others have fizzled. Although the pay-off does feel slightly beleaguered (sometimes the monologues border on being too ostentatious), it is definitely worth the wait.
It must be said, though, the actors’ performances don’t fully gel in this inventive format. Perhaps it’s a tonal issue – Joe Matty (Brendan) delivers his monologue like a slam-poem, rhythmically belting out the lyrical lines, whereas Ruth Page (Fran) is more grounded, serving up slice-of-life drama that eschews flashy theatrics. Equally, the sound-syncing aspect of the show is a little off-putting: the immersion is routinely lost as the actors occasionally mangle their timings and de-sync themselves from the pre-recorded tracks.
However, these problems are teething issues in an otherwise spectacular show. Writer Douglas Dean has found a fresh way to access this saturated genre, emerging with an end product that won’t leave audiences disappointed.
24, 23, 22 is available to stream from 26th February 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.