From weddings to birthday parties, we’ve all become used to what were once social gatherings becoming ‘virtual’. In Harpy Production’s Broken Link, part of the Living Record Festival, it is a less happy occasion that sees a group of four come together. Noga Flaishon’s intriguing new play, directed by Kitty Ball, utilises Zoom at the same time as putting it at the heart of the production.
Unable to come together as they usually would, because of the lockdown, these four characters find themselves raising a glass to their late friend over a video call. Their annual memorial for Ellie seems to follow a traditional pattern, James hasn’t yet properly accepted his sister’s death, while for boyfriend, Luke, a career and a new girlfriend has helped him to move on.
Megan couldn’t face university without her best friend, and her overly prickly persona gives us a few clues as to how an alternate life as a barmaid is shaping up. Luke’s new girlfriend, Holly, also joins the call, her relationship to Ellie isn’t exactly clear, but perhaps it’s her role as the new love interest that is most important.
Broken Link markets itself as being in the supernatural category, so it’s no spoiler to reveal that dear departed Ellie joins the call, albeit communicating entirely through the chat function and by text messages to individual characters (audience members can also choose to receive text messages as part of the interactive element).
Suddenly secrets are being exposed, and the cause of Ellie’s death is called in to question. It’s a compelling plot, written with enough of a twist to make it feel like an hour well spent. Flaishon ensures that there’s good development of the male characters (Harry Ryan and Kieron Michael), but Megan (Rachel Chima) and Holly (Ida Regan) could have been explored further.
The production could easily have afforded to push itself a little further, the air of suspense was never really maintained, and the fact that a ghost had joined the Zoom meeting seemed to be accepted by all just a little too quickly. There’s a great opportunity for the company to take this idea further, and to expand it out in to a longer piece, capitalising on the possibilities of an interactive ghost story.
Broken Link is an enjoyable short that perhaps sways more towards issues of grief and mourning than you would expect, but it’s also thought provoking and is well performed by the cast. Having been created especially for the digital stage does give this play a starting advantage, and while virtual gatherings are our only option, joining this one may not be a bad call.
The Living Record Festival runs 17th January to 22nd February 2021, full details can be found here.
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