Connections missed and made are set in motion in this playful, algorithmically-generated piece exploring love and chance from young company Poltergeist Theatre. xx, pronounced ‘kiss kiss’ (as I find out at the box office), is comprised of ‘ten duets and five monologues determined by an algorithm every night’.

their surrealness lends something to the production’s incidental, dream-like quality

Who plays who, and in which order, is randomly selected each evening and, though the sequence of the monologues is fixed in order to provide a central structure, the actors performing them vary,as does the casting of the scenes around them. There are ‘trillions’ of possible combinations, so thankfully there’s a whiteboard covered with them to guide the performers.

Sweetly funny and sometimes poignant, this is a production which tiptoes towards the twee but manages to dodge its worse excesses. This is thanks to the thoughtful and joyfully bizarre script developed by the cast themselves, along with writer-director Jack Bradfield.

At the heart of the piece is a single occurrence, told from varying perspectives in the monologues, but it’s the eclectic and well-observed two-handers which really make the show. One such instance is when an astronaut headed for the moon frets to a lover left behind: “I’m just worried I’m gonna get there and it’s gonna be shit.”

The monologues are engaging, but seem tenuous as the central thread of the piece; their characters feel nebulous and some have a zaniness which threatens their plausibility. It’s as if in writing them to be performed by any cast member they have been liberated from a recognisable reality, though their surrealness certainly lends something to the production’s overall incidental, dream-like quality.

Devised physical elements are used sparingly, yet effectively. There’s an obligatory juddering tube carriage scene but it’s done so well that they get away with it and the transitions are dynamic but well-judged. Colourful bungee cords add structure to the scenes and echo the crossing ‘x’ of the title, pairing and parting the performers in a visual metaphor for the threads which connect us by chance.

A more grounded sense of character and a stronger narrative would lend weight to what is otherwise a tender and funny exploration of meaning in lives determined by chance. That aside, xx is a uniquely charming show, intelligently staged and with an intriguing premise.

Reviews by Lanikai KT

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The Blurb

‘You make me feel like numbers.’ Two friends talk politics over the carcass of a dead dog. A couple find love in the park while their children fight in the sandpit. Pagans gather at dusk in the park for a strange ritual... An exploration into the mathematics of character creation: the actors' parts and the scenes are randomised by an algorithm at the start of every performance. There are over 36 trillion variations: the kiss kiss calculus. You'll never see the same play twice. A new piece of experimental theatre by Jack Bradfield.