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Covid-centric theatre has begun to increase in popularity, with many companies using the events of the last year as theatrical inspiration. Whilst still in the midst of this pandemic, the topic will inevitably sit differently depending on the audience, making it quite a difficult subject to pitch just right. Distance Remaining aims to present the varying realities of people living in Covid times. In parts, the show balances hope and reality quite effectively, but contradicting and inconsistent style choices seems to upset this balance.
Distance Remaining is a collection of three short monologues which give the audience a glimpse of people’s varying lockdown experiences. Written by Stewart Melton, the script is imaginative enough in its portrayal of the trio of characters, but the text seems to contradict itself. The premise of these monologues suggests a naturalistic style, yet there are many parts of this script that seem overly stylised, thus losing the sincerity of the naturalistic set-up. In each of the three scenes, there are moments of real truth and heart, but there are also sentiments in the script that appear too forced.
The cast is made up of Dolina MacLennan, Karen Dunbar and Reuben Joseph, all of whom deliver thoughtful, engaging performances. However, the style of both the script and direction limit their effectiveness somewhat. Truthfully, even though they embody their characters well, their choices always end up clashing with the overall styling. A lack of connection between characters is often a critique which comments on the actors themselves, but the missing link here is not caused by a fault in the acting. The script and direction don’t create any cohesive connection between the characters; in fact, apart from a shared final shot of the three actors looking dramatically at the camera, there appears to be no connection at all. It’s in this gap that the piece’s general lack of cohesion is amplified even more.
Similarly to the script, Caitlin Skinner’s directorial style has moments of real intrigue, but said flair is disappointingly inconsistent. Skinner chooses to break the fourth wall in the first two scenes, when the camera pulls back to reveal the apparent on location scenes are actually being shot in a studio. Like the script, this choice contradicts the naturalistic premise, but remains interesting. Yet bafflingly, this choice isn’t followed through in the third scene. The inconsistency results in a lack of coherence between all three stories and renders a seemingly bold choice meaningless.
The show is full of contradictions: a script with a naturalistic set-up, but elements of excessive theatricality and direction which makes intriguing choices, but does so inconsistently and without any clear reasoning. Somewhere within this slightly chaotic piece, there is a show without all of this confusion; a show where the intelligent choices made by the writer, director and performers are able to compliment each other, not oppose.
Distance Remaining is touring until 9 May 2021. For more information and tickets, see Distance Remaining online.