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Theatre review Apocalyptic overload as everything happens at once

WHEN asked recently whether he would describe his latest work as a play, Chris Thorpe replied: “I don’t care.” He’s not a traditional playwright and Victory Condition is not a traditional, or easily understood, play.

In it Man (Jonjo O’Neill) and Woman (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) have just returned from a holiday in Greece, not that you’d be able to tell from their largely morbid overlapping monologues, whose subject matter wafts from dreams where “angels were aliens” to “a man in a Moscow hotel room bleeding secrets,” all reeled off at a ferocious pace.

If you try hard enough to stitch a plot together you can just about decipher that Man is a sniper with his high-velocity rifle trained on a protester he is falling for, while Woman is a graphic designer for a monolithic multinational who cannot escape the lucid horror of the imagery on the daily news.

There’s more than a nod to Caryl Churchill but the text lacks the haunting undercurrent of her work and certainly has little of its wicked humour. The blurb claims that Thorpe is attempting “to get to grips with the fact that everything happens at once” but this feels like a work where the writer has so much to say that he manages to gain little grip on anything.

Maybe that’s the point but matters aren’t helped by the overwhelmingly apocalyptic tone: “We both know the system is fucked. I know the alternative to a fucked system is chaos. You know the alternative is something fairer. We both know the number of possible endings to this is decreasing,” being one example.

There’s little let-up and, although O’Neill and Duncan-Brewster turn in steady performances, Vicky Featherstone’s colourless direction allows for minimal intrigue.

The ending offers a glimmer of hope and it seems that there will be a different conclusion every night, so this is a show that may spark increasing discussion as it runs rather than the sighs breathed by many of those around me on press night.

Runs until October 21, box office: royalcourttheatre.com

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