Well, huge props to the two actors here, at any rate. Chris Thorpe’s Royal Court debut has required Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Jonjo O’Neill to memorise two long, dense, overreaching monologues about how fucked the world is, and deliver them in bleak, unrelenting voices without any mutual interaction. In Vicky Featherstone’s production, this tense, tuneless duet is played out in the identikit sterility of an open-plan city apartment and is paused only by the arrival of a pizza delivery guy. Stick around, have a slice! you feel like begging Pizza Man. Just please God don’t leave these two alone with this script.
Which is all very unfortunate and surprising. Because Thorpe is a Fringe First-winning theatrical experimenter with a talent for getting audiences to connect. His one-man show, ‘Confirmation’, was a kinetic confrontation with political extremism. ‘I Wish I Was Lonely’ involved the audience’s mobile phones and a bold risk. He’s just scripted a new take on ‘Beowulf’ for the Unicorn, staged like a rock concert.
But the theme that emerges most strongly in ‘Victory Condition’ – which also tries to be about our inbuilt need to win and our deteriorating capacity to act – is disconnection. We see a man and woman return from holiday and go through the complacent choreography of privileged coupledom. As they unpack suitcases, open Amazon packages, pour wine, light candles and charge their phones, they narrate dramatic events happening simultaneously elsewhere. A military sniper eyes up a freedom fighter in a distant land. A graphic designer in an ad office feels traumatically remote from her colleagues. A sex-trafficked girl longs for rescue.
Meanwhile, female genitals are being mutilated, missiles are being launched and little Indian boys are losing fingers in industrial accidents. Apocalypse is very much buffering away on the horizon.
Thorpe does convey a sense of the ungraspable speed and unprocessable synchronicity of life. The man’s monologue is all delivered in the second-person present tense of those old-school interactive fiction games. But the confused plot and references to technology never quite come together as a postmodern narrative trick. You leave the theatre. You feel slightly ranted at and massively baffled. You disengage.