There is one word for Chewboy Productions’ Tethered: meta. The piece is a surreal, strange and hilarious experience which blurs the lines between reality and fiction and blends together that which is onstage and that which is off. Watching it is a unique and intriguing experience, which leaves me with a multitude of questions at the end – however, I am unsure as to whether my final confusions are down to a complex premise or a poorly communicated message.
Essentially, we watch a play within a play. Upon entering the theatre, I see that the two protagonists (played by Hal Darling and Georgie Bailey) are sat chatting on the stage, discussing what music to layer over one of the speeches in the play that Bailey’s character has written. For about fifteen minutes I watch them interact as the rest of the audience filters in, and then suddenly the lights dim; the play then begins, but not in a normal sense. It feels like it begins a long time before we even sit down. Throughout the play, the actors ask themselves: how did we get here? The opening is the perfect way to elucidate this question.
The rest of the play involves us watching the two rehearse Bailey’s play and assume the characters of Sans and Moins who are tethered together. Sans and Moins are extraordinarily dysfunctional, with this having comical results – furthermore, as the play goes on, it becomes clear that Sans and Moins reflect the personalities of Darling and Bailey. Everything begins to blur together and by the end it becomes hard to tell where Sans/Moins end and where Darling/Bailey begin. Whilst their relationship is hilarious and I laugh out loud frequently, this is matched by some scenes which seem to drag; we watch them blow up balloons for what seems like an eternity as they chat amongst themselves. The scene feels directionless and doesn’t add much to the play for me, and unfortunately there are a few scenes which seem to operate in a similar way.
Darling is constantly reminding Bailey that he needs to leave, that he has a life to get on with outside of rehearsing their play. Bailey, however, is reluctant to let him go. What seems like a fondness for spending time with his friend slowly evolves into something more nebulous, with Bailey uttering cryptic statements such as “You still aren’t getting it yet are you?” as Darling tries to leave. It becomes clear that all is not as it seems, and I think that the ending of the play can be interpreted in several different ways. In my mind, it seems to me that Bailey knows they are characters in a play; once they stop rehearsing, once they stop acting, they cease to exist. That is why he doesn’t want Darling to leave, and why neither of them seem to understand how they got there in the first place.
As I have written above, if Tethered is one thing, it is meta. Whilst this creates hilarious moments and excellent scenes of satire about fringe theatre, I also think it serves to confuse the meaning of the play. I enjoy Tethered, but leave it feeling distinctly confused – what is it trying to tell me? What is it trying to teach me? Maybe nothing. But the fact I do not know is telling.
Tethered played at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 24 July 2021. For more information see ChewBoy Productions’s website.