‘This is a story about the difference between us.’
In a way, the above statement is true; Victory Condition is a story about the thousands of differences between every human and the one they pass causally on the street every day. It is also a story about every similarity you have with that same stranger, and the stranger you’ll never know on the other side of the world. It’s a story about how even though everyone necessarily thinks their experience in the world is an expertly unique one, we are all the same, we all feel the individual particulars of love and think OUR love is different, we all feel desperate, and jealous, and crushingly fearful.
Chris Thorpe’s story is a hugely ambitious, monologue driven, script which attempts to explain and display a virtually ineffable concept; that every event is happening at once, all the time.
Directed by The Royal Court’s Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, this was always going to be a hard work to ‘pull off’ in an effective manner. Not simply because of the concept, but because of the structure. The play is essentially two intercut monologues, told by the Man, played by a calm Jonjo O’Neill, and the Woman, played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster. The two monologues interrupt each other; fragmenting the casually devastating stories they want to tell us.
The set is a convincingly realistic open plan kitchen and living room and the Man and Woman walk around with familiar ease and purpose; sharing the space effortlessly as they act out a typical couple’s evening in. They acknowledge each other with their eyes, all the while speaking their unrelated monologues back and forth in a vague facsimile of conversation. The comfort of their life, made up of take-away food, Xbox games and appreciative gulps of wine, is charming and interesting viewing. It lies in stark and uncomfortable contrast to their constant stream of serious speech.
O’Neill is an interesting physical actor, and I remember him adoringly from his turn as Orlando in the 2009 RSC production of As You Like It. However, his monotonous drawl didn’t suit the long speeches of Thorpe’s work and I found myself accidently tuning out of his register in favour of simply watching him move around the stage.
Duncan-Brewster is quicker, effortlessly chic as the Woman, and moves with a restless energy. Her speech reflects this and although her monologue is more conceptually hard to grasp than her partner’s, her tone and gesticulation renders it more compelling viewing.
Victory Condition is beautifully written, the monologues could easily be broken down into a series of profound and philosophical sentences. However, the problem lies in translating these long pieces of text onto the stage, some of the highly metaphorical images work, some not so much. But the overarching idea is so aspirational, so lofty, you can’t help being impressed by its ambition, as well as by its slick production value and pacy actors.
Victory Condition played The Royal Court Theatre until Saturday 21st October.