Thursday 16 January 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: The Empathy Experiment - The King's Arms, Salford.

I was happy to be going to The King's Arms as it's my favourite theatre venue. If I were to compare it to other pub/theatre venues around the UK and France, The Kings Arms stands out for its cozy bar downstairs and great theatre and studio spaces upstairs, that constantly provide a wide variety of theatre and chances to catch the best of the fringe arts at prices that are affordable.

Not only is 'The Empathy Experiment' by Rose Condo, winner of the Best Spoken Word Show Award at the 2019 Greater Manchester Fringe it also has a large collection of rave reviews, having heard lots of positive hype I was off to make it for the first night of two more shows at the Kings Arms, Salford.
'The Empathy Experiment' is a one woman show, Rose Condo has gone a day without her phone and invites the audience to join her for the last hour, as she reviews whether this has been a successful way to counter the effect our mobile devices have on our ability to empathise with one another.

There was a long moment where I hesitated to hand over my mobile, what if something accidental were to happen to the device I depend on daily. I heavily swayed towards stubbornly sticking my mobile into depths of my handbag, but then realised this was having a genuine emotional effect on me, the risk was probably minimal to the phone, so for the sake of an engaging experience with the rest of the audience I slipped my mobile into the envelope and handed it over to watch it sit on stage in a basket. 

The performance has the feel of an improvised TED talk, with Condo stood centre stage with a flip chart explaining her experiment and why it meant so much to her to recognise she wasn't as connected with others as she used to be. Bursts of poetry delivered at moments to colourfully illustrate Condo's pivotal thoughts were well timed and gave overall structure of the piece great pacing.

I admit spoken word is usually not one of my favourite theatre forms, but Condo was delightful, voices and characters within her poetry were masterfully presented and were highly entertaining. Especially the children's story, in which President Trump is arguing with a magic mirror and unable to take a moment to reflect on his actions. Condo engaged with her body, jutting her head forward, making the unmistakable pout and with the added element of voice was immediately recognisable as Trump. The iconic rhetoric used, even in patter of spoken word was very believable and humorous for the audience to watch. Like a real children's fable a strong morale was delivered in the guise of an entertaining story, a powerful approach to preaching about the facet of ourselves we may not like to recognise.

An enjoyable hour in the theatre, a show with an appeal to a wide ranging audience, I don't think there are many of us who aren't overly attached to our devices and could do with the voice of Condo reminding us to 'put it away' and to cherish the moments with others. A gentle show, but with a poignant message that I feel will resonate with me for a long while.

Reviewer - Kerry Ely
on - 15/1/20

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