REVIEW – Somebody I Used to Know

*****

By S Mulvihill

In a hut outside the Assembly Roxy Claire invites her audience into her bedroom. This intimate act is intensified by the fact that there is only room for one guest at a time. There is a solitary chair which Claire invites you to sit upon, before offering you sweets in a gesture of hospitality. It is uncertain what response is expected initially, and what level of interaction, but Claire tucks into the Nerds which prompt her memory of an old acquaintance and leads into the narrative.

She talks of her relationship with Andrew, a boy she met at 14 and with whom she felt a connection. We are told about how they shared some important milestones in their lives, but how they lost contact with each other later on. She takes us through their most important meetings and conversations, occasionally stopping the monologue seemingly lost in thought. It is well designed to help the audience empathise as to how most people will have someone in their memory who touched their lives in their formative years, but is perhaps slightly naïve in the handling.

This is a bold attempt at immersive theatre on a highly individual level. The concept of giving someone a one-to-one theatrical experience about the impersonal nature of friendship in a digital world is intriguing and valid one. The company have thought about all aspects of interaction within this piece, from stimulating sensory response by spraying deodorant to playing the same song repeatedly. That the actor seldom loses eye contact with you is a powerful tool, but at times is unconvincing, despite the fact that the room is littered with pictures and detritus that should transport you into the world of this post-teenage girl reminiscing about events in her near past. Perhaps the reason for this is that this is also a multi-media show, and the projections jerk you out of the reality this production is trying to create and disconnects you from the interactivity. With an immersive experience like this you can either be totally realistic or not at all, and unfortunately this piece can’t seem to make up its mind which it is. It is a good idea lacking in sophistication. That said, it is an experience that offers something different to the average fringe show. This production feels like it has a lot of scope for expansion, and is thought provoking. An excellent concept.

16-19, 21-25th 12:00-18:00 every half hour (20mins) Assembly Roxy

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