Review: The Connection

Gemma Sheehan 10 November 2016

I went into The Connection with very few preconceptions, but aware that as a college production it was likely to lack the polish of an ADC show. However, in reality this had little impact on the overall quality: what ultimately let the performance down was a heavy-handed script and a severe lack of dynamism. While the play has interesting things to say and makes innovative use of sound and screen, this is not enough to redeem its fundamental flaws.

The Connection follows protagonist Joseph as he lives ‘through the rise of social media’, going from adamantly supporting ‘the connection’ (a sort of mixing of a futuristic Facebook, Tinder or Amazon) to a realisation of the nightmarish way it affects human interaction. Elements of it are good: some of the acting is solid; the technology theme is explored in semi-novel ways; and the use of sound and screen is well thought out. However, the show is let down fundamentally by its weak script, and this affected the whole performance. Clunky and clichéd, it made watching parts of the production genuinely painful; most notably in the second act, where some of the opening structure is lost and the narrative becomes absurd, reflecting the worst elements of young adult dystopian fiction. A final blow came in a horrifically irrelevant T. S. Eliot quote, which added to the pretension but not the coherency of the final scenes, and left me vaguely embarrassed for the actor saying it.  

Some aspects of the performance did work. The set in general was impressive given what was being worked with – the old screens and monitors lining the front of the stage were nice, as was the set-up the audience walked in on as the opening scene: two people sat in the dark, uncommunicative, mindlessly scrolling MacBooks. Indeed, the show must be commended for its experimentation with sound and technology. An especially clever feature was the large screen that displayed ‘the connection’, where a spectacular attention to detail with shown with the profiles, pictures and notification updates. Another successful decision was the constant change of actors playing Joseph’s parents, which quietly added new depth to the theme of humanity within technology. However, all these together could not make up for the problems in the actual script, which undermined a lot of the subtlety introduced by hitting the audience over the head with unnecessary melodrama.

Overall, this production tries hard and has lots of interesting ideas, but they are not quite pulled together into successful theatre. There is potential, but this is not something I would pay to see.