These Quicker Elements, written by George Rushton, is an interesting and ambitious half-hour monologue by a woman with a dark secret who is also losing her memory. The audience joins Lana, played by Marianne James, as she recounts to a mirror covered in mysterious writing what she does – or does not – remember. This is a joint production by Chaos and Dovetail Productions with free tickets; it runs for little over half an hour, meaning that sitting down to watch it takes up no more time than waiting for a Deliveroo to arrive.
James’s performance is commendable; she succeeds in engaging the audience in a production without props, interlocutors, or staging beyond a stark white wall. Her performance is reminiscent of the original stage production of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag in terms of emotional depth and connection with the audience. In addition, the filming of the production comes across seamlessly and professionally, as if the whole piece were filmed in a single perfect shoot.
The piece itself was intellectually stimulating, with Rushton fitting in meta analyses of theatre and philosophical conundrums, as well as describing rather than showing past events. In some ways, it felt appropriate to be coming from Chaos Productions, following on from their production of the specially-written Zoom play Simulacrum in Michaelmas Term. Much like Simulacrum, TQE adapted to the limitations of the current circumstances and reflected on the theme of isolation and solitude in an innovative, dystopian way. Those who enjoy Black Mirror will also be drawn to this short but impactful piece.
Director Helena Aeberli calls the play “new and exciting”, highlighting it as “a hybrid piece of film-theatre, a medium pioneered during the pandemic”. This hints at the innovations that the Zoom-play phenomenon allows for both writer and cast. Aeberli, making a connection to the motif of glass within the piece, saying that “the camera itself is the mirror. Audience and performer are one and the same. The camera is our entrance to the room, but it cannot be an escape for Lana”.
As interesting as the writing was, however, I personally found that it moved both too quickly and not quickly enough. In many ways, it felt as though this ought to have been a published rather than performed text; the writing jumps from one memory to another without giving the audience time to consider the implications of what has been said. Rushton has been ambitious as a writer, but the reliance on the monologue form made it difficult to completely enjoy the “plot” being recounted to us. This is, of course, a sign of the times, and it only goes to demonstrate how much was squeezed into a mere 35-minute production; I wanted to see more.
Overall, while the play is not perfect, we can hardly expect perfection under these circumstances, and the whole team ought to be proud of what they have achieved; the act of writing a structured, cohesive piece is to Rushton’s great credit. As Aeberli said, the play is a “collaborative creative vision, a team of people bringing different skills and backgrounds, but the same passion and engagement to the table”. It is clear from watching the play and speaking to Aeberli that this production has been a labour of love, and it is definitely worth watching.
These Quicker Elements isbeing shown at 8pm on Friday 9th May. (Free!) tickets can be found here.