Review: Conspiracy

3 star rating
An interesting piece with an impressive ending, but the show finds it hard to muster the big laughs we might justifiably have expected given the subject.
Conspiracy at New Diorama Theatre

Image courtesy New Diorama Theatre



Closes here: Saturday 5 October 2019

Author:
Developed with members of the company; text by Jack Perkins

Director:
Dan Hutton

Cast:

Azan Ahmed

Shannon Hayes

Rose Wardlaw


Synopsis


PRINCESS DIANA NEVER LANDED ON THE MOON.


ELVIS PRESLEY LIVES IN AREA 51.


JFK DID 9/11.


Three people sit in a room.


The context of their meeting is unclear, but they are examining an infamous photograph and something's not right.


They are conspiracy theorists and they think they're onto something big; but each discovery leads to the next inconsistency, the next inconvenient untruth, until their whole perception of the world, or each other, of themselves, of the very concept of truth, becomes the object of their mistrust.


Background


Barrel Organ's previous work includes: Anyone's Guess How We Got Here, Some People Talk About Violence and Nothing. 


WINNER! The New Diorama & Underbelly Untapped Award 2019.


Supported by Arts Council England.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Tuesday 17 September 2019
Review star rating image

Given the nature and subject matter of this play, I'm somewhat more constrained than usual about how much detail I can reveal about it.


In particular, there's a rather inspired and surprising ending that in itself justifies a visit.


The show's basic format is akin to a lecture, the subject of which is a famous photo - taken way back in 1932.


Now I'm not going to reveal the name of the photo nor the setting, but it is a clever selection since it enables (possible) connections to be made between the image and powerful and, possibly, sinister people and organisations.


When we enter the auditorium, we're faced with three people already sitting behind a desk.


There's a (deliberately) stuttery kind of start where the presenters introduce themselves - in fact, we get several renditions of their intro to underscore the notion that they are not professional lecturers.


Rather, they're amateur sleuths who've latched on to a well-known photo and have conducted considerable research into its origins as well as the people depicted in it.


As the title readily implies - and the synopsis clearly states - these are obsessive conspiracy theorists (or at least two of them are).


Their detailed research has led them to conclude that there's something sinister about the photo they've been scrutinising.


Theatre company Barrel Organ are absolutely right to examine the whole question of conspiracy theories since we're living in an age of information overload and we all have to find methods to sieve truth from fiction.


Our innate intelligence, honed with years of schooling, can help us confirm through research when information presented to us is factually accurate.


The converse can also be valid - questioning what we are told can unearth inaccuracies or downright lies.


But, as we all know, research and evidence can be moulded to reach extreme or absurd conclusions as with so-called conspiracy theories.


The cast keep their real names for the purposes of the performance and all of them convey with considerable aplomb their roles as amateur investigators.


Given the set-up, I'd anticipated plenty of naturally arising and perhaps pointed satirical comedy from this show.


Now there are humorous moments and some audience members seemed to discover more comic fun in the play than I did.


But, overall, the show lacks really big laughs in spite of a subject that would seem to offer comic opportunities in abundance.


That might be because the emphasis in the later stages starts to fall on relationships between the amateur researchers, highlighting a different but important consequence of conspiracy theories for those who become embroiled in them.


In this section of the piece, the logic of the lecture set-up breaks down when one of the participants appears hell-bent on wrecking proceedings and negating the validity of the group's findings.


Conspiracy is nonetheless an interesting and engaging piece which finds ample relevance to promote discussion, though it offers no solutions to how we negotiate our way through mountains of factual evidence or how we avoid drawing wrong or ludicrous conclusions from it.



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