Feeling Lonely At Parties presented by Pursued by a Dragon
What Is It?
A piece of dance-theatre, without dialogue, exploring how loneliness and mental health are effected by contemporary society.
What Is It About?
The company are dressed in identical khaki jumpsuits and black headphones. They give themselves this costuming as a metaphor for isolation and then, peculiarly, literalise it; the play is set in a dystopian future in which citizens' moods are controlled by a pantomime villain via their headsets. Snapshots of the ordinary citizens trying to connect with each other at parties are framed by their attempts to rail against this villain and his cronies.
How Did It Make Me Feel?
It's halfway between New Year's and Brexit Day, and so I reckoned there was no harm in a January blues top-up from this morosely-titled piece of dance theatre. But this ends up being a little less party, a little too shoot-your-demons to speak truthfully to our experience of poor mental health.
The strongest scenes are the ones which show the characters... well, lonely at parties. There’s an expressive moment of melancholy performed by Ieva Unguryte, and a sweetly joyful duologue between Bryan Carvalho and Joshua Wainwright in which they smirk and side-eye their way towards intimacy. Pursuing this concept produces some tender scenes, so it's a shame that the simple setting of people trying to connect at a party is sidelined in favour of the action-based storyline.
The play has to deal with the narrative baggage it has dumped itself with and ends up with a long series of fight scenes (in which the characters… hand-laser each other? I'm not sure there's a word for it in the scrabble dictionary, but think Eleven in Stranger Things). The dystopian concept itself isn't the problem, but personifying society as a 2D villain is trite, and setting him up as the obstacle drained the narrative of the complexity you’d expect from a play about relationships.
There are also several scenes of mimed dialogue, which are frustrating to watch. The play could have committed more to its form, and really dug deeper into exploring how to present a world in which people are stopped from connecting by having their connection to their own emotions removed. Mime could be a powerful and heartbreaking form for this story, but here it isn't specific or sustained enough to take root.
Where Is It Playing?
The Space, from 14th -18th January 2020.
The cast are committed; Unguryte and Carvalho are particularly watchable. The soundtrack is as dogged as the actors, making sense with the concept of constant mood-management. However, the music needs to interact more closely with the rest of the show to convey its significance to the characters’ experience, rather than just asserting a numb perpetuity on the audience as much as them. By the time the inevitable 'Dancing on My Own' came on, I was longing for a moment of silence.
Grace AK x
Feeling Lonely At Parties is playing at The Space until the 18th January 2020.
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