A sallow sofa sits beside two jaundiced armchairs, its feet cluttered with cans of lobster bisque soup. An outsider has been invited over the threshold in the dead of night. A stranger that seems familiar because of the stories he tells. Except that they are not stories. He speaks of reality, and yet he is unreal. A messenger with a place atop the housing ladder – a man with all of the answers and even more questions. Sam, (played by Sam Weston) joins seven housemates, who, post-university, are in monumental debt.
The company perform with expressionless faces, their stony resolve the source of many instances of humour. They are almost mechanical in their delivery, with the emptiness of their eyes bringing a sense of danger. It is as if a miasma has taken Soho hostage. In this moment, the characters seem to be the only people existing in the entire world. Multiple narratives overlap one another, giving the piece a dream-like quality. Conversations mix in a whirling pool of words. They are drawn together by a current of events, meeting and causing conflict in quick succession.
Inspired by contemporary issues, Sacrifice explores the inaccessibility of life in The Big Smoke from the perspective of the under privileged. A masculine fever charges discussions surrounding indirect racism, with particular emphasis on what it means to have a ‘foreign body’. This theme is translated into every corner of the action, indicating the tension that has risen between the notion of belonging within a society, as opposed to becoming the property of it. The narrative plays like a sitcom, except that it demonstrates an alien quality: like Friends had it been filmed on the Moon.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of gravity about the piece. With long periods of stillness, the energy of the cast begins to wane, at times making the script feel limp and the space under-utilised. There are moments of choreography, but these are rare. More sequences like this would be useful in order to inject further intensity into the performance, in addition to remedying any stagnation. However, it is an intelligent production, full of existential thought and epistemological nightmares. The characters too, are relatable. Some are millennial piñata’s – yoga-doing vegans dressed in loose floral blouses and velvet trousers. Others appear to be caught in a quintessential student limbo, with Nathan (played by Nathan Linsdell) excelling as a tortured if pompous graduate.
A metaphysical twist enhances the idea that these actors are lab rats caught up in a social experiment – trapped in a cage where money is like the Holy Grail, and where they are constantly taunted by materials that they will never possess. “We’re artists,” the group sigh, a remark that is met with snorts of laughter. The lack of stable work within the creative industry is no secret, and Ardent Theatre have used this to their advantage. Sacrifice is a promising piece of work, but at present it is composed of featherweight absurdity. It needs to pack more of punch.
Sacrifice was on at the Soho Theatre until 4 August 2018. Click here for more details.