KT Jemmett’s futuristic Disconnect is an interesting concept. The premise is that there are 10 convicts aboard a spacecraft, which is to be sent from the fictional “ProxC” to “ProxB” as a deterrent to any possible law breakers. The negatives of being sent off is that they never come back, and no one knows how long it will take, or what awaits them when (and if) they make it there. That being said, the ending of this production all depends on what the audience votes to be done, whether they leave, or stay. We are given a polling slip each and informed that during the interval we must fill out said slip and turn it in, and the actors will improvise an ending. One can only think of Brexit when such a decision must be made, as there is no certainty or reassurance with one of the options, and everyone has something to lose or gain depending on their circumstances.
We can quickly see a dynamic forming as the characters enter the space and introduce themselves to one another, and they all represent a different aspect of society. Directed by Michelle Shortland, there are very clear character choices, so much so that it feels like an alternative seven dwarfs situation; Angry, Leader, Quirky, Worried, Content and so on. This is not a set play for the actors however, for as the piece goes on, we see these characters develop and grow, and it is intriguing to learn about what they have (or haven’t) done to be put on the ship, as this has a bearing on our vote. Despite some of the delivery proving a little rough around the edges, with drops in volume and actors speaking over one another when they were not meant to, there are some very convincing performances, one being by Jessica Kathryn, who plays the airy- fairy Daisy. Her childlike obliviousness is a joy to watch, and is a great contrast to when events become more serious. Another mention must go to Rosie Rigby, playing the heavily devout Agnes, with her constant positive attitude due to her faith, and Hacker-Kid (Samuel Topper), the youngest of the convicts, socially awkward and scared. Ben Koalack plays the withdrawing Piers, and his frustration with the situation and the other character’s reactions to it adds a comic element to the atmosphere. The whole ensemble support each other well, and for everyone in the room, not knowing what will happen next was a great social experiment which rings home for many.
KT Jemmett’s love for “high concept, low budget” is apparent, as the set (Michael Bettell) is sparse for this production, with a few crates, blankets, chairs, and some electrical panels mounted on the wall and centered in the middle. A low-level hum of the craft is heard, and activated engines, time lapses and announcements are designed by Rachel Espeute, whilst lighting (William Adams) is used to show the passing of time through flashing lights, with hardly any change to the lighting throughout, as the setting is a spacecraft, so there is no daylight, which drives home the bleakness of the situation.
Disconnect is set in the future, where earth is no more, and democracy is a thing of the past. Peter (Sam Elwin) at one point says, “History shows that people are willing to vote for those that will harm them”, and there are so many discussions on topics such as scapegoating, medical negligence, police brutality, scaremongering and women’s rights. Getting the audience to vote successfully induces discussion and debate, but I also witnessed apathy to voting and someone going along with their friend’s vote, which is a glaring reminder of our current political situation, where a large percentage of the population does not take an interest in voting. The for and against arguments for democracy are driven home throughout this performance, so while we still can, register to vote and make it count.
Disconnect is playing The Ugly Duck until May 14.