What can I say about a production so swathed in secrecy that the Almeida refuses even to sell programmes until after the performance? Well, the ticket reveals that the audience is seated in zones and it is evident in the foyer that there are four of them. I was in one, but I cannot attest to the existence or whereabouts of the other three in an entirely re-configured theatre space. Leaving aside the specifics of this new play by currently high-flying writer Mike Bartlett, it seems that the intention is to place the audience in a world that is half real and half virtual – let’s call it “mid-reality” – and thereby explore the dividing line between the two. Moral questions that are asked – how safe is it to devise a seemingly harmless outlet for latent violent instincts and what is the potential damage to children? – invite comparisons with Jennifer Haley’s The Nether. However, that play possessed a compelling narrative, whilst this is a succession of short scenes (adding up to under an hour), with much repetition and indistinct progression. Technically, Sacha Wares’ production, designed by Miriam Buether, is a triumph, the conceit being constructed impressively and executed with precision. Ultimately, I found mid-reality an uncomfortable place to be and, much as this play got under my skin, it also left me cold.
Performance date: 25 February 2015