Review Larchview (National Theatre of Scotland)
There is no shortage of online theatre at the moment, while we wait for live performance to return and make us all whole again. Many have felt overwhelmed by the number of recordings available, and then sometimes underwhelmed by the quality of these shows. If you are looking for some online theatre that isn’t a two hour-long, blurry commitment, these bite-sized pearls of theatrical wisdom are the answer - Scenes for Survival. The National Theatre of Scotland has described these 50+ videos as a “new season of digital short artworks”, created during quarantine in the artist’s own place of isolation. These videos are stripped back and simplistic – they are fifty responses to our new existence, and they are well worth a browse. The one that stood out for me was Larchview. This clip is truly a snippet of our time, conveying the politics and daily heartbreaks at the height of lockdown. During this period, we have all struggled, some more than others, between adhering to government guidelines and giving into our human desire for connection. The immediate consequence for choosing the latter is, for many, a fine. However, this is not the case for those in the public eye, especially those tasked with enforcing the constraints on our natural social behaviour. This is what we are presented with in Larchview; a chief medical officer (a brilliant Mark Bonnos) is recording a public apology for visiting his mother in a care home, which subsequently had an outbreak in which his own mother succumbed to the virus. With each recording attempt we are exposed to more information as we spiral into discovering the tragic consequences of the medical officer’s selfish actions. It is as much a self-realisation as it is an apology to the public. The story, though fictional, harks back to the front-page stories of top political figures, naming no names allegedly breaking the very rules they created. A very relevant performance. Six months ago, this would have been a performance portraying an alternate universe, and yet today it plays on all aspects of the current world we have come to accept: from the camera adjustments to the desperation of those living alone. With each recording attempt writer Rob Drummond drags us further into this short but poignant narrative of lockdown tragedy, until we no longer see a ridiculed public servant medical officer who has provoked the anger of the British public, but a human being. You can watch Larchview and the other Scenes for Survival, on the National Theatre of Scotland’s website.