We love the Royal Court in Sloane Square and used to go there at least once every few weeks to watch a play. It’s a shame, but our visit yesterday evening to see Alistair McDowall’s ‘X’ was probably the first time in half a year, way too long.
The play’s first half is staged in a single stage set that quite nicely emulates the inside of a research space station on Pluto, as far as we can tell (not having been there).
Through the conversations among the limited number of characters, the astronauts on the small team present at the station, the audience quickly learns about the alarming situation the team find themselves in: For two months (or so they think) the skeleton crew has not been able to establish communications contact with Earth, and it is unclear why.
The communications expert of the team, whose character speaks in a broad Liverpudlian accent tells his colleagues that he has no doubt that the signal reached Earth, but that there is just no one picking up.
The first half is not chronological but flips back and forth in time by a few weeks and days. Quite early on some scenes have a large red ‘X’ painted onto the inside of the external window on the far end of the room, it looks like it was painted in blood, an assumption that will be verified towards the very end of the first half of the play in quite a shocking manner, very entertaining.
There are many strong scenes, for example some great dialogues about what makes life real, for example something along the lines “But why do you keep hard-copy photos of people you do not even know, Ray, you could have just looked at random photos online?” – “You people don’t understand, it’s all just zeros and ones to you, it doesn’t live! These photos have something of those people on them, light hitting paper, they contain something of the people, they’re like a shadow, they’re REAL!”
Or when they realise that they cannot be quite sure about how long they’ve been on the planet, or when they talk about listening to the silence and how there are different kinds of silence, this one being more organic, etc.
We really liked the first half.
Unfortunately, one of us is a bit of a chicken, so after the proper dosage of horror at the end of the first half, it was decided to leave during the interim and take the tube home to Green Park station.