For a play that ostensibly revolves around the intangible, shadowy recesses of the web, Silk Road always feels more preoccupied with the corporeal.
Take the hand of a girl you really fancy, feel the dry warmth of her palm and your heart pulsing at the back of your throat.
Open an old book, feel the pages pop with dried up moisture.
Hand your nan a hot, steaming mug of tea.
Bruce is – well – he’s not quite sure what he is – who he is – but he has been buying and selling drugs on Silk Road, the illicit eBay of the dark web. He’s been stashing baggies of cocaine in his nan’s hand-knitted tea-cosies and sending them around the country. His old boss wants £50k from him. He’s in a little over his head.
He’s thin, wiry, febrile, covered in sweat. I like him. I want to give him a hug. I don’t think his clothes fit properly. He moves like liquid. He looks like he wants to curl out of himself and melt into the floor. He slips into other characters with ease and then yanks back into his body painfully, reluctantly.
Take the hand of the girl you love and –
Bruce stretches his arm out and flexes his fingers and pushes as hard as he can. He wants to touch. He wants to connect but he just can’t – quite –
Take the hand of the girl you love and watch as she pulls away.
I think he just wants love. Wants to love and be loved. (But I think that about every show, so maybe that just reveals a lot about me.)
Maybe it’s simpler. Maybe he wants connection. Touch. Warmth.
And that should be simple but then all these – things – get in the way. Class and money and opportunity and expectation and fear and insecurity. They rise and swirl and crackle and Bruce gets on his hands and knees and crawls back to the Silk Road, because why wouldn’t you?
Rock Paper Scissors Shoot.
Hold your nan’s hand and hold it tight.
Why didn’t you just shout after her?
Except these things don’t go away, they grow, bloat, distend, and stumble after you, and reach for you with splayed, swollen fingers, and even if you don’t look they breathe damp down your neck and you – Bruce – turn to face them, and they grip you at the shoulders and – and –
But then –
Out of their grasp, Bruce slips like molten metal. He keeps moving. He looks back once – but then he’s gone.
Take her by the hand and tell her you love her.
Silk Road was at VAULT Festival until January 28th. For more details, including future dates, click here.