This play, set in a not too distant dystopian future, seemed as though it could have been, or should have been, a memorable and gripping piece. However I (and perhaps the ten or fifteen audience members who walked out during the performance I saw might also agree with me) found it rather disappointing. In its publicity, Novemberunderground defines itself as ‘An unnerving and highly distinctive play’: true though both of these statements are, I am not sure I would apply them with positive connotations to this production.
The play begins with a couple (Clara and Tim, played by Imogen Hudson-Clayton and Harry Owens) sitting at a table finishing up the leftovers of a dinner for two in tense silence at a hotel restaurant; the year is 2024, the place is London. Conversation between the two of them seemed forced and uneasy, full of unfinished sentences and interruptions. This fitted the scene excellently and, combined with well-executed subtleties of physicalized awkwardness, drew you into the tension of the piece from the off.
However, whilst this style seemed effective at first, it soon became grating and often actors delivered lines in a way that seemed anticipatory of the following ones, which was not fitting to most of the scenes. In addition, the dialogue on the whole seemed to be vastly samey in form and delivery. Though this appeared to be an attempt to replicate genuine stunted communication in semi-natural speech, it was not carried off in an interesting or exceptional way and therefore felt flat and dull.
Although there were some redeeming moments - for example, I quite enjoyed the interaction between Neil (Ed Thorpe) and Dwight (Andrew Livingstone) which had some amusing points in the dialogue - on the whole the piece was full of non-sequiturs and non-relationships. Several potentially interesting ideas - the Novemberunderground and ‘What happened in Canada’ - were never fully explained. In addition, I had a sense that this piece could, at times, have been quite thrilling but the unnatural acting and forced dialogue made even these moments fall flat. Although littered with pop culture references, even these seemed to carry very little poignancy or purpose. I left disgruntled and disappointed that the most intriguing part of this play seemed to have been its title.