It’s a fair enough question when there is such a saturation of theatre content online of such varying quality. But I wonder whether it’s the wrong question because what is good (such a loaded word) changes on circumstances and context, and in the current lockdown some theatre speaks more directly to us than other pieces of work.
I’ve seen Shakespeare online over recent weeks that has been performed by great actors and with high production values, and it has felt classy but irrelevant. I have sobbed at Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall (the free access has been extended for a further week), performed with bewildered aching tenderness by Andrew Scott.
Andrew Scott in Sea Wall.
I’ve also seen rough and ready interactive shows like Coney’s Telephone, a scratch piece that is not only thematically eloquent in the way it is exploring fragility, connection and distance, but which is also asking questions about what it means to be in a room and play together on Zoom. Coney are pushing at the boundaries of theatre and of technology, and you should keep an eye on their website for upcoming theatrical experiments.
Midnight Your Time, available on the Donmar’s YouTube channel until Wednesday, certainly isn’t pushing any boundaries, but that’s not to say that it’s not satisfying theatre for lockdown as it tells of a woman, Judy (Diana Quick), desperately trying to make contact with her adult daughter, Helen, via Skype. Helen, who works for an NGO on the West Bank, is not answering and appears to be trying to put as much distance between herself and her mother as possible. With, it gradually emerges, pretty good reason.
Diana Quick in Midnight Your Time.
Cleverly directed by Michael Longhurst to emphasise the frustrations and liberations of technology, this is a pared down version of Adam Brace’s script first seen at the Edinburgh fringe and High Tide back when the Cameron-Clegg coalition was governing. Brace’s intelligent writing ensures this never feels like a period piece, and Longhurst and Quick ensure that the show has real resonance as it explores a thorny mother and daughter relationship which shows up that communicating and connecting are quite different things.
Sporting chunky jewellery and a silk blouse, Quick’s Judy is a woman who has all the right liberal credentials but lacks the ability to see things from other people’s points of view. The trick of Quick’s performance is that she ensures that Judy is never a monster but always relatable. She has done damage, but the person she has most damaged is herself.
I know of several people who entered lock-down estranged from family members and lovers, and some have reconciled over Facetime or Zoom over the last eight weeks, and some are further apart than ever. Midnight Your Time speaks to the desolation of the unanswered Skype ring.
You can watch Midnight Your Time here until Wed 20 May.