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Connecting at Chapel Playhouse | Review

Connecting...Connecting… is an experimental piece of theatre that begins with a back to the future scenario as we travel with its sole character through two decades of crippling loneliness, a condition that is exacerbated, rather than alleviated, through advances in web-based communication technology. The play’s simple setting conveys much of the isolated world its protagonist inhabits, as well as the transitional themes of the piece. As we enter the performance space, we are confronted by two large cardboard boxes, one marked ‘fragile’, is reminiscent of oversized, antiquated stereo speakers from a bygone era – or could they be packing crates about to be loaded onto an ocean liner for a world-wide journey? Although the concept of the sea is never elaborated we are, nevertheless, about to be swept up in frenzied waves of emotional upheaval.

A masterful sound effect that precedes our introduction to a hyperactive, spindly thin protagonist is the brutish white noise of a modem dial-up that fails to connect. Enter a young man (Billy Hicks), arms and legs flailing to a blasting medley of crash dance Nineties music. It is a noisy dance sequence that goes on for way too long. The character tells us that he LOVES, each wall in his room where he will be hanging posters of his favourite heroes, Super Mario and Simba. Although he tells us he is only nine-years-old, he’s moved house five times in his short life, and we sense that there is a deep, anxiety that pervades his painfully thin frame.

Moving through time and technology, he revisits his life as a 12-year-old, now hanging posters of teen pop queens, and again at 17 seeking love on MSN Messenger. Noise continues to permeate his existence, perhaps to fend off his fear of life beyond the sanctity of the four walls that entomb him. Finally, post-apocalyptic 9/11, he restructures his fantasies around the hundreds of contacts he’s made on Facebook and Twitter. What will happen to him is uncertain.

Connecting… is a story for our times, one that might have been difficult to stage without the skills of its highly competent director (Lucie Regan) and the energy and pathos of Billy Hicks, as its writer and sole actor. However, there is room for a quieter approach to its complicated protagonist, rather than the excessive – and sometimes prolonged – use of noise as markers to his inner emotional life.

4 stars

Review by Loretta Monaco

London, 1997. A lonely, science-fiction obsessed child starts recording his life on cassette tape — and continues for the next two decades.

Billy Hicks’s play spans 22 years of social and technological change. Beginning in the days of VHS, Super Nintendo, progressing through the early days of the internet and MSN Messenger and right up to the smartphone and social media planet of today.

This coming-of-age story unfurls from boy to teenager to eventual adult, struggling to form connections in a constantly evolving world.

After a successful preview at the 2018 Camden Fringe Festival, an extended ‘Connecting…’ makes its premiere at the Chapel Playhouse this March.

All Terrain Theatre in conjunction with Unfinished Histories present Connecting…
Written and performed by Billy Hicks
Produced and Directed by Lucie Regan

Connecting…
Chapel Playhouse, 308 – 312 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8DP
Sat 2nd Mar 2019 7:30pm & Sun 3rd Mar 2019 3pm & 7:30pm
www.chapelplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on

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