“Work In Progress” – a veritable minefield for the theatre critic. While acknowledgment that the finished piece may bear little resemblance to this early showing must be made, part of the process is to gain feedback on what works and what doesn’t is part of the development process.
It’s with this caveat that this is indeed a work in progress and in fact the first ever showing in front of an audience that this review of Free Time Radical needs to be taken.
The Frequency D’ici Company previously received acclaim for Paperweight, a small scale show performed in an office. While Free Time Radical takes a much larger approach to drama it is conversely less clear what narrative the company is trying to tell here.
As projected images of two men surfing and stripping fade into radio reports of a giant tsunami hitting London, two men enter a room and begin to empty a cupboard of its food. As the radio continues with tales of a wave half the height of Nelson’s Column hitting Trafalgar Square, the reporter is lost and the radio switches to a fake James Blunt playing Coldplay. Given that the show was conceived before the recent tragic events in Japan, it seems to be incredibly topical. Sadly these opening five or six minutes are the only real moments of narrative clarity in the piece. Although trapped in the flat, possibly by flood water, possibly by radiation (it’s never clearly explained why) the catastrophe is never really mentioned again.
The characters change into surfing gear, skateboard in the living room, throw tennis balls around, play monopoly, sing songs but never acknowledge any reason why they have been thrown together. If they are trapped they for some unexplained reason never mention this to callers to their mobile phones. Frenchman Ali, whose flat the two seem to be in, seems to be avoiding his mother’s dying moments while Jensen reveals eventually a potential marital dispute. Neither of these story arcs, though, are explored in any depth and neither character seems developed or have a clear direction of why they are in this situation.
The script is still in development but, in its current state, needs some serious editing and revision. Large sections of dialogue consist of lengthy rambling monologues that ultimately lead only to confusion over what the message is.
The show is heading to Edinburgh this summer but before then Frequency D’ici need to urgently sit down and work out what it is exactly they are trying to say here.
Actors Tom Frankland and Sebastien Lawson do try their best with the material but ultimately Free Time Radical is a confusing, rambling and overlong evening that never seems sure what route it is taking. As devisers and co-founders of the company they perhaps need to step back and take an objective look at their creation.
There is potential here for a story to look at the human impact of two people thrown together by disaster but sadly this award winning company seem to have got washed away in a tide of conflicting ideas.