These Quicker Elements is a play made up of fragments: fragments of memory, fragments of narrative, and, more literally, fragments of glass. It pushes the boundaries of the monologue form in an exciting new way, forming a crystallised example of online theatre done well.
Filmed in what appears to be one continuous shot, the play is about a woman called Lana, whose mind goes blank all of sudden, and then has to piece together her memories using quotations written in a mirror. We discover the details of her life at the same time as she does, learning about her career in set design and the rocky arc of her relationship with her husband. Marianne James as Lana gives an impeccable performance, fluidly shifting from the light-hearted opening dance sequence to intense moments of pain and trauma. The pace rises and falls as though composed to the letter – credit must go to director Helena Aeberli. A huge part of what makes the acting so impactful is the way the camera functions as the mirror Lana is looking into – this is initially very jarring to watch, but in a fun way, with Lana feeling uncomfortably close. The script describes the experience of feeling like an actor is talking only to you as ‘something special’, and this is what is achieved.
The profundity of the script is both one of its greatest strengths and one of its few flaws. Elegant lines such as ‘He may have grown more arrogant being a ghost’ and ‘I saw him die lots of times’ make the play endlessly quotable, allowing it to comment on life, love, and theatre in general rather than remaining confined to one narrative. At the same time, however, these lines occasionally take us as audience members out of the immediacy and the directness that makes the play work.
Perhaps then, the show’s flaw is that it is too clever. Rushton has taken on a hugely ambitious concept – one that’s really exciting in the field of filmed theatre – but this means that now and then the intricacies of the script trip over themselves and the heart of the production gets lost. The acting is at its best when Williams is able to reach moments of joy and despair, but in the in-between, there are moments where the glass fogs up a little too much. With that said, the twist ending is expertly handled, pulling the plot together and shattering our perceptions of what is going on and delicately tying together many of the aspects that initially feel disjointed.
Overall, in what for many of us is a chaotic, disrupted term of exams and restrictions, this play is the perfect opportunity to engage your brain in a way that feels closer to watching a good episode of Sherlock than sitting in the library.
These Quicker Elements will be released at 20:00, Friday 7th May (TT21 Week 2)
Image Credit: Peter Todd.