This show, currently running on-demand in the Brighton Fringe festival, at the virtual venue The Living Record, could have played out as a simple good vs evil story. There are, after all, plenty of those about.
However, the Aslant Theatre Company has instead decided to create a piece which uses audience choice and interactive curation to display different scenes depending on which path you choose. I’d already experienced this (also on the eko platform) with Anthropocene, so recognised quickly what I needed to do, and playing the ‘game’ several times to get an idea of what the team had developed.
The creatives behind Echo/Chamber are Antonia Georgieva and Oliver McFadden as writers and co-directors, and Aida Rocci as dramaturg and editor. McFadden also plays one of the two major roles, that of rich businessman Paul, and he is joined by Isaac Hesketh as the mysterious and exuberant Drew. Sophia McLean provides the voiceover of Agatha, who remains unseen but who has a pivotal role in the story, acting as the chorus to this modern-day myth from the Greeks (with the 15 Heroines and Talking Gods series, something of a theme in this odd year).
Paul, uptight, orderly, staid, contrasts sharply with Drew, a TikTok drag artist and activist. When they are first introduced we are asked to make a choice about who we trust, and then are prompted to answer the question again and to dictate their actions as the show progresses.
Whether Drew is real or a figment of Paul’s imagination we are never quite sure. Echo/Chamber flirts with profit, protest and politics but its line is a little stilted, as both characters hold something back and step back from the full reveal.
Paul is a defensive man with a touch of the macho, Drew is a gay femme challenging what a man might be. People rarely speak like this, even in their fantasies, which gives the play an otherworldly feel. This plays like a twisted Faust, a queer fantasia on the Devil Woman. As Paul uncoils, does our sympathy switch? Should it?
What about Paul’s mother? What about privacy, safety, and informants on social media? Who do you trust? Who is the devil here? By the scenes where Paul is coaxed into Drew’s world, I was thinking of the 1960s classic film Performance, where one character blends into another so deeply you cannot tell them apart. Here, in Echo/Chamber, there is a queer romance and a biting battle between ‘Chaos’ and ‘Order’, and I liked it a lot.
Topics explored include the pain of the closeted, feelings of rage and violence, of impotence. What the right path might be for any of us as we move through life. As we muse on the two men and try to figure out who is the most vulnerable, who is the most devious, and who can be trusted, we latch on to the most basic of human elements. The essence of touching, of opening up to others. The scars we bear within us, the way we play on the emotions of others.
Each path generates very different scenes which still leave you wondering. This is a clever, creative, and thought-provoking work with high production values and strong performances from McFadden and Hesketh.
Fringe rating: ****
You can access Echo/Chamber between 28 May-27 June here. Tickets are £7. Running time varies depending on your choices (45-60 minutes).
Aslant Theatre Company are a female-led collective producing new work and imaginative adaptations of the classics: find more about them on their website.
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