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Outlier by Marcus Bateson at the Jack Studio Theatre

A nuanced and unusual coming-of-age story, James (Conor Murray) isn’t completely naïve – he knows what’s inappropriate for the family iCloud account, whereas a different set of behaviours is practically expected when engaging on online dating apps. A remarkable amount of storyline is crammed into this fifty-minute play, and a range of themes emerge, which taken together provide considerable food for thought.
Outlier by Marcus Bateson
The accompanying soundscape does much to enhance the plot, underlining a performance that stretches across various human emotions in different settings, from a gym to a sports field to James’ flat. Other people in his life are all very distinctive, both in their own right and from one another – a best friend has a genuine belief in astrology, for instance. It wasn’t easy to decipher much about James’ mother, listening to one side of his telephone conversations with her, though that they are on friendly speaking terms is, I suppose, all that is necessary to know.

I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve set foot on Irish soil in my life. Be that as it may, the names of landmarks and even retail stores in the show have an air of familiarity to them. This is one of those productions in a studio space that makes selective use of a microphone, which ultimately makes little if any difference either way. At one point, James, having gone out to meet a new online beau in person, gets very physical (ahem), demonstrated by a series of jumping jacks and other equipment-free exercises, which were frankly exhausting to watch. The routines, which progressively get faster until he eventually stops suddenly, considerably short of breath (you get the idea), suggest that whatever went on was done with consent.

Or was it? Implied consent isn’t the same as express consent – you knew that, of course, and so did James – and given the apparently somewhat abrasive personality of his date, the possibility of him being coerced can’t be completely ruled out. Indeed, later, he does not want to look at his dating profile, even after receiving a notification from the app in question in case it’s a message from the said date.

The hypocrisy James finds in his university flatmates’ behaviour is a source of humour, and Murray’s James establishes a good rapport with the audience that is sustained to the end. The conflicting feelings of the character are palpable, and it becomes clear that online liaisons and encounters aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Is the play suggesting the younger generations are over-relying on apps on mobile devices? Perhaps a wider applicability applies, both to older generations who are also increasingly susceptible, and to the role artificial intelligence may play in society in the future. As far as this show goes, it’s an energetic and engaging production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

James struggles to remember what is real and what is imaginary, after meeting a guy he wishes he hadn’t.

A lonely university student from rural Ireland, James attempts to deflect the events of a dark night, with stories of his astrology-obsessed friend, his performatively woke flatmate, and a new overpriced mindfulness app he’s just discovered.

Conor Murray performs in this energetic one-person show confronting gay online hook-up culture, rainbow capitalism and issues of consent with humour, honesty and nuance.

Outlier by Marcus Bateson
Creative Team: Written and Directed by Marcus Bateson
Movement Direction by Charlotte O’Reilly
Sound Designed by Theo Foley
Lighting Design by Ferdy Emmet
Creative Producer: Conor Murray
Promotional Imagery: Páraic McLean
Produced by Mac Tíre Theatre Company

Cast:
Conor Murray

Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 July 2023 at 7.30 pm Running time: approximately 50 minutes with no interval
https://brockleyjack.co.uk/

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