I’ve been working my way through the National theatre of Scotland’s project Scenes For Survival for the last month (see below) so I thought it was about time to catch up with some of the other short length material that is out there in the ether. The Young Vic has ten such pieces, so I thought I’d split them into two groups of five and take a look over this current weekend. A whole two days at the Young Vic – that’s a bit of a treat. The second tranche of Young Vic Digital is rather more random in content than the first so I’ll follow suit by not working in any particular order.
Having established that there aren’t going to be any connections, let’s begin with a piece called Connection which is written by Laura Wade and Nicolai Khalezin. It takes place at an airport – not a place many of us have seen recently but then this was filmed back in 2013. Jude Law plays Jude Law and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, he literally plays Jude Law. He encounters Khalezin, an actor from Belarus, who is trying to find his connecting flight to Minsk except Law assumes he’s trying to find the exit. Separated in intent by language they gradually bond after they both receive phone calls from their mothers with bad news. Although the connection is broken almost as soon as it has begun it provides the viewer with some food for thought about political asylum seekers.
Also seeking refuge (I thought there weren’t going to be any connections – Ed.) is a young Syrian woman (Sonya Cassidy) in a piece called Astoria written and directed by Paul Mason. She has reached Budapest a place not untainted by its own history of repression and finds herself at the titular hotel. Here past and present meld together as she encounters another young woman who seems to be straight out of a 1940s film noir. While it’s not a bad idea the piece is very brief and never really gets into its stride though its mix of colour and black and white filming takes it to a different level. As it was just one small part of a larger Young Vic project (Horizons in 2016/17) it is probably unfair to judge it out of its wider context.
Past and present are again shown to be inextricably linked (again, with the connections – Ed.) in Columbite Tantalite which refers to a mineral called coltan for short. It comes from the Congo and has been the source of conflict in the region; it is present in just about every electronic device we now use so its potential to create wealth is obvious. The narrative shows us how one man has made himself phenomenally rich from the ore though it all started with an act of violence on his part that he has been unable to lay to rest. In a second strand a young games designer whose consoles will utilise the mineral has no idea – and probably doesn’t want to have – that the source of his business is built on the exploitation of others. Although these two strands are connected it is only tangentially and thematically which isn’t quite enough to hold the piece together. It was developed by Chiwetel Ejiofor after appearing in the Young Vic’s A Season In The Congo in 2013 so perhaps should really have appeared in yesterday’s grouping.
Similarly developed out of a larger Young Vic project (and there it is, Ed.) digital theatre piece called Hear Us…A Digital Zine…Time To Listen brings us more or less back up to date. During 2020 the Young Vic building was covered in an enormous triptych of portraits of influential members of the historical black community; the artwork was called The Unforgotten. To sit alongside this nine young Londoners put together a digital zine which touches on subjects relevant to last year including the Black Lives Matter movement and specifically the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue into Bristol Harbour. There’s quite a bit of animation and some talking heads, but the piece is rather too fragmented for my taste; but then I’m probably not the target audience -though, given the subject matter maybe I’m exactly that.
The final piece, The Roof by Nigel Williams is much more light hearted in tone and will appeal to those who know something of revered director Peter Brook. He turns up at the Young Vic itself but for some reason seems to be fixated by the top part of the building. And why is his face entirely covered in bandages? The then current Artistic Director of the venue, David Lan, appears as himself as do Rory Kinnear, Natalie Dormer and Jude Law (so that’s full circle for the connections then! – Ed.) although this time round these are comically heightened versions. And a special mention for a delightfully self mocking Sir Ian McKellen who gets to play a character called And Even Yet Another Fan, surely one of the highlights of his illustrious career. It’s basically a jolly romp but a nice petit four on which to finish the set of digital pieces.
For reviews of the other half of the collection – click here
Today’s bonus Scenes For Survival piece is a light piece called Three Billion Swipes by Corinne Salisbury. Online dating during a pandemic is even more fraught than usual especially when you’re using an app which cuts out after a ten minute taster session. Our two potential lovebirds (David Rankine and Kirsty Findlay) don’t seem to have that much in common but in true rom com fashion they soon start forming a relationship. There’s a neat twist at the end; the rest is undemanding and enjoyable enough
Young Vic Digital is available on the theatre’s website – click here
Scenes For Survival pieces are available from the NTS website – click here; a number are also available on BBC iPlayer – click here
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