Tethered, Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Tethered | London Theatre: Stagedoor

by Diana Miranda

Brought to us by ChewBoy Productions, Tethered, Or the Adventures of the Adequately Excited People is a surrealist, dark comedy about isolation, hope(lessness) and the effects of relying on others while searching for freedom. Written by Georgie Bailey and told through a series of short scenes, Tethered unfolds as a play within a play that jumps back and forth in a metatheatrical game, with a tone ranging from running-commentary comedy to meaning-searching existentialism.

Sans and Moins (Hal Darling & Georgie Bailey) are on a quest. They have a message, but they don’t seem to agree on how to proceed. Part ways? Not possible. They are tethered together by a thick rope and by intertwined storytelling. The twin brothers from Alice in Wonderland come to mind. To flip a coin becomes a mediation strategy, as well as a symbol of the dual nature of the show.

Tethered gives us highs and lows. There’s playfulness and poignancy as the plot unfolds. Unsurprisingly, the most overt experience is that of comedy. The theatre’s black box becomes a cheerful atmosphere with balloons and party hats lying around the stage. Darling and Bailey, dressed in matching dungarees and purple t-shirts, are joking with each other as the audience takes their seats, almost like a pre-set for a children’s birthday party. As they continue chatting, the lights dim and two minutes in the audience is already laughing out loud. The story is scattered with jokes, physical comedy, and a bit of slapstick – something for everyone.

But this play also has a softer side. The push-and-pull dynamic between both characters alludes to an ache in the repetitive nature of hope. Be it in a rehearsal room that the characters can’t seem to leave, or the imaginary place in which their alter egos crusade, the show explores the different responses to the loneliness that may arise when two people navigate the limits of an enclosed space, looking for the next thing. The chemistry between both performers/characters has more resonance when the facade of comic over-excitement leaves room for heartwarming sincerity.

Bailey is full of energy. He pulls focus and is 100% invested in each scene as his over-enthusiastic and perfectionist alter ego. Darling’s character wants to break free and follows the lead half-heartedly, pausing to question the script and constantly waiting for the moment they can stop doing the same things all over again. It is hard to tell when Darling and Bailey end and Sans and Moins begin, and while the blurred lines between performer/character serve the show’s metatheatrical design, it feels as if more distinct code-switching would make the storytelling all the more gripping.

The characters in Tethered speak the same way inner voices do (or at least, I hope it’s not just me): struggling for resolution and pushing towards different directions even when they pursue the same(ish) goal. So our resolution of this dark comedy, whether it is about hope or hopelessness, may reside in which of these voices is shouting the
loudest on a particular night. Or perhaps just let Sans and Moins flip a coin.

Tethered, Or the Adventures of the Adequately Excited People runs through 24 July.

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