This headphones-based outdoor show by Samuel Sené and Gabrielle Jourdain was a hit this summer in its native France, and has gone on to be something of a post-lockdown smash over here: ‘C-o-n-t-a-c-t’ recently extended its London run - at three separate locations - deep into November.
It’s a perambulatory show in which the masked, socially distanced audience follows the performers – played by a variety of different actors across the Monument, City and Greenwich locations – listening to their pre-recorded words and thoughts via an app downloaded beforehand.
The plot concerns a somewhat fragile woman, Sarah, who encounters a man who can read her thoughts. He creeps her out for a bit before declaring himself to be her guardian angel, here to save her from mental health problems that are connected to her trauma at the death of her father.
I’m conceivably projecting onto this, but it does feel more like a ‘90s French screen romcom than a 2020 British drama. It’s basically the whimsical story of a young woman grieving one father figure, who needs another father figure to rescue her.
It doesn’t go anywhere dodgy with it, but it is, at the least, a bit on the slight side, with some politics you’d ask some questions about if this was, say, the Royal Court.
But of course it’s not, and for me, watching ‘C-o-n-t-a-c-t’ at its Monument location, the pleasure was being out by the Thames on a crisp, sunny autumn evening (proper romcom weather). The two performers do a fine technical job of syncing to Cyril Barbessol’s lively sound design and the pre-recorded lines. But the best thing about the headphone-based format is that you can allow your eyes to wander away from the actors and take in, say, Tower Bridge, or the numerous passers-by puzzled at what we’re all up to.
It’s not a drama for the ages. But it is an extremely agreeable way to spend 50 minutes getting reacquainted with some of London’s most dramatic spots.
Note that in all cases the ‘venues’ are just approximate start points and are not affiliated to the show itself.