Amid the hubbub of cafe chatter and the hiss of milk steaming a mobile phone vibrates with messages of condolences.Terry (Terry Donovan) is about to get a lesson in 21st century grief - his ex-boyfriend, Luka, has died and left Terry in charge of his social media accounts as his ‘online legacy executor’. Should they be preserved or deleted? And how does Luka’s online persona match-up to Terry’s remembered version of him?
Phones may be good but they’re no substitute for holding someone’s hand.
Chris Goode’s monologue meanders down memory lane, gently exploring loneliness, grief, and intimacy in an age where we’re supposedly more connected to each other than ever. The unhurried pace allows Terry’s mourning to develop naturally, finding meaning in the mundane as bereavement is wont to do. Terry’s stream of consciousness is mediated via a set of headphones to each audience member who’s also handed a smartphone that pings with notifications and allows us to see the virtual traces Luka has left behind. Far from being a gimmick it’s ideally suited to placing the audience into Terry’s isolated position whilst being surrounded by other people experiencing the exact same thing.
The layered sound design complements Terry’s performance whilst also gently reminding us that the reality we’re experiencing is just as airbrushed as the Luka we see on our screens. With the lighting design less is more, using only a few table lamps, fairy lights and hidden colour strips to add to the atmosphere and plunge us further into Terry’s internal turmoil.
Theatre is ultimately a form that depends upon human interaction to survive and director, Daphna Attias, clearly understands this, guiding Terry’s performance with the technology to create a quietly profound meditation on intimacy. In the end it seems that the fundamentals of loss and grief never really change, all that does is the tools we have at our disposal to cope with it. Phones may be good but they’re no substitute for holding someone’s hand.