JOYCE MCMILLAN on CONNECTED at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 2.11.11
4 stars ****
THERE ARE plenty of plays around which refer to the amount of time people now spend on line, and the strange parallel lives we can lead there. What makes this week’s Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime show special, though, is that much of the action is actually set in those virtual worlds. We meet the two characters, Simon and Daz, not only in their real-world lives as bored office workers and long-time friends, sitting at neighbouring desks, but also in a militaristic online game, where they play two US soldiers in a war zone, and – to amusing and then shattering effect – in the computer world Second Life, where Simon imagines that he has made a sexy new friend.
Appearing this week at Oran Mor as part of a two-way exchange with Bewlay’s Cafe Theatre in Dublin, Connected is sharply written by Will Irvine and Karl Quinn, and wittily directed by Iseult Golden; but the heart and soul of the show lies in two terrific performances from Bryan Burroughs as Simon, the man who still has hopes of making something of his real life, and Aaron Monaghan as Daz, the one who’s happy if he can spend his working hours playing online games, and his leisure time drinking.
In 55 short minutes, this clever play raises dozens of questions about the meaning of this huge shift towards online experience; about how it corrodes the attention we once used to focus on real work and play, and intensifies and reifies a misogynistic porn culture that makes the flesh creep, but also frees the imagination, and enables day-to-day friendships to survive vast geographical distances. In the end, it’s striking how much more dramatically interesting Simon and Daz’s online worlds become when real-life complications intrude on them; but if there’s too much self-indulgent miming of online activity here, there’s also a slick, interesting and brilliantly-performed human drama, that explores whole new worlds of dramatic possibility.