Victory Condition, Royal Court

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Imagine a world where our inner monologues are voiced at all times. Sure, it would make the world a much louder place and we’d probably always have sore throats. But think of the things we’d hear. The mundane, the extraordinary, the intimate – there would be no secrets, lies or hiding.

Chris Thorpe’s stream-of-conscious monologues bubble forth from a middle-aged couple just returning from a holiday, though they can’t hear the other speak – the audience keeps that privilege for themselves. He reflects on his real or imagined time on the front lines of what sounds like an anti-terrorist mission in the Middle East. She contemplates her advertising job and imagined death on the tube. There are entire philosophies packed into these otherwise matter-of-fact narratives. They drink wine, play video games, and eat pizza in a casual routine juxtaposed against the events playing through their minds. It’s riveting in this balance between the everyday-ness and exceptional.

The actors’ calm, even delivery has a meditative effect, though this doesn’t necessarily feel like a problem. This combined with Thorpe’s precise and specific language invites latching onto a particular line or idea and losing focus on the present, but it’s then easy to lose track of the narrative. As such, it takes particular effort to not get lost within the two alternating stories, though their more horrifying moments are impossible to ignore – particularly when considering such military offensives and are likely playing out at that very moment somewhere else in the world.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Jonjo O’Neill have easy and watchable demeanours. Interacting without speaking to each other directly, there’s a sense they have been together for years as they comfortably and routinely cohabit. Though couples always keep secrets from each other, has either of them ever shared these musings that the other cannot hear? This adds complexity to their relationship.

Victory Condition is both sticky and distancing, a difficult production to pin down what with its oppositional forces at work. But either way, Thorpe’s script and Vicky Featherstone’s confident direction propose some big ideas.

Victory Condition runs through 21 October.

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