A young woman, Sarah (Chloe Gentles), goes about her day in silence, troubled by erratic thoughts and a pain in her sternum that won’t go away. When she sits on a park bench, lost in thought, a stranger (Cellan Scott) tries to strike up a conversation which she initially spurns. But all is not as it appears, and soon she is propelled on an emotional journey that will change her life forever.
The idea behind this production from C-O-N-T-A-C-T theatre is intriguing. Set entirely outside, the audience follows the actors around an outdoor environment, watching their movements whilst listening to voice-over and music provided by a digital app on their smart phones. This is both a refreshing change from more traditional theatre experiences and a timely approach in the context of the pandemic and social distancing measures.
While the performance itself is short at less than one hour, it is nevertheless an immersive experience. Its themes of loss, grief and connection with others speak to the current atmosphere of social distancing and limits placed on physical contact. This is further underlined by the audience moving silently with the performers, engaged in the drama but incapable of participating.
The production does well to dig into these themes and keeps the audience guessing about the true nature of the stranger’s identity and the source of Sarah’s pain. The use of music contributes to this atmosphere of suspense, which was impressive for a performance conducted outside in broad daylight amidst members of the public. When the production reaches its conclusion, there is a sense of satisfaction and promise fulfilled.
The only downside of the experience is moving around outdoors, exposed to the elements and attracting glances from members of the public. This may make some audience members uncomfortable, and it is therefore not a theatrical experience for everyone. However, this reviewer found it an enjoyable, novel experience that was also the perfect re-introduction to theatre. A heart-warming sign of things to come!
Playing until 27th June – https://thelowry.com/whats-on/contact-salford-quays/
Reviewer: Amanda Hodgson
Reviewed: 23rd May 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★
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