By Carmina Masoliver

January 2021 saw the start of the Living Record Festival, which featured over forty artists and theatre companies showcasing digital work, from spoken word audio pieces to mini-web series. It has garnered many four-star and five-star reviews. In the second part of this two-part series, Carmina Masoliver discusses her remaining picks of the festival’s most interesting shows. You can read part one here.

Covert Firmament by Dan Horrigan

Dan Horrigan’s Covert Firmament is a selection of short pieces that are designed to help you feel, aiming to be provoking and sensational. The sentiment in ‘Towers Touching the Stars’ reminds me of the message of Martin Niemöller’s famous ‘First they came for…’ poem. We are presented with a romance of living in towers that touched the stars, offering a visual and physical sense of distance from the rest of the world, which is aflame, mixing the literal and the figurative. Set to a background of music, the story builds with tension throughout, with nature personified and poetic lines like ‘her husband’s face was every falling flag’ that hint at a darkness to their relationship. The focus are the woman and her child, giving a sense of isolation, with nature depicted as punishing, as climate change/crisis destroys the planet.

You can find out about Dan Horrigan’s work on his website.

Prayer for a Parasite by Heloise Thual

Deliberately uncomfortable, Pray for a Parasite explores the dangers of overworking, and the merging of the intimate and the work space. The repeated refrain, ‘Hello, how can I help you today?’ becomes distorted and disordered; the protagonist logs out, and goes back to bed. The monologue is disrupted by crackling sounds of creatures crawling, noisy electrics buzzing, a kettle boiling. The repetition offers a vocalisation of what many will be able to relate to, as their world becomes limited to working in one space, with no life outside it. There is some promise of a breakthrough, with reference to ‘white light’, ‘cosy’ and ‘a lullaby in a lost language’, whether an acceptance of the present, or a promise for a better future.

You can follow Heloise on Instagram, where she shares her visual art.

Promotional image for Stories of the Present War by Beautiful Confusion Collective. Photo credit: Paul Wade via Beautiful Confusion Collective

Stories of the Present War: Digital Installation by Beautiful Confusion Collective

Invited to dip in and out for two minutes to two hours, we listen to a story told through letters between the author’s grandparents in the 1940s, as photographs and various memorabilia are laid out on the table in front of us in a collage, which is swept away to make room for new ones. Told by Becka McFadden, some of the content is pre-recorded, voicing the stories of her grandparents, whilst also giving commentary, reflecting on parts of the text, such as her grandmother writing she was ‘twenty-one: a woman grown’, with certain extracts from letters written down and added to each collage. The commentary is slow, and measured, the words deliberate and thoughtful, improvised and spoken so naturally, at times telling us that a thought had only just occurred to her in the moment of speaking. There’s also an element of mystery, with her grandparents writing not only beautifully, but creatively, using coded language, such as ‘pepper-pot’. These elements combined make for a captivating piece.

You can find out more about Beautiful Confusion Collective on their website.

Members of Outside Edge Theatre Company perform. Credit: Edge Theatre Company

Write Now by Outside Edge Theatre Company

Seven different stories set to a moving illustrated landscape. The first is Laura’s Jilly’s Jingle Bells, describing being alone at Christmas, creating OnlyFans and Instagram content, using tinsel for bondage. It touches on mental health in a comedic way, referencing the rhyme, ‘my illness is chronic, but my tits are iconic’, before going into experiences of OCD, agoraphobia and insomnia. Jo’s piece, Ben, takes place on a balcony ledge 18 floors up, where a fifteen-year-old boy tells of his experience of lockdown, struggling with thoughts of suicide. Next, A Ladder Made of Water by David talks about regret and grief, hanging in the balance between life and death, hoping everything will be okay. John and Vic write about Brothers, reunited after twenty years, making amends after the death of their parents, and the power of emotional expression and physical affection. In Jojo, Chris speaks to us directly about his life, and the dissolution of his relationship, after the impact of the death of their daughter. Echoes, by Ian and Ravi, describes a war scene in Syria and travelling to ‘the Jungle’ in Calais and then to the UK, contrasted with the experience of finding safe refuge from Nazi Germany, travelling to the UK via Holland, drawing parallels between the experiences. Finally, in Tears of the Sea by Kelly, a woman called Sonya Hale from Clean Break is described poetically as ‘a piece of sea glass’, and shows us that our teachers can take all forms.

You can find out more about Outside Edge Theatre Company on their website.

Scratch Reflex: A short form scratch night by Reflex Theatre

Norwich-based company Reflex Theatre present four pieces improvised from their first to last page of new work. The first piece, ‘Does Anybody Love Maisie?’ by Sarah Barnett looks at two people talking about a mystery Valentine’s card, with the conversation being rather slow and banal, teetering around the elephant in the room until a final reveal. Next, ‘Attic’ by Nat Wood Fox, explores another mystery, meant to be more horrifying and involving dolls, though it’s hard to get the feel for it over the brightly-lit webcam footage. In ‘Happy’ by Morven Robinson, Holly wants to study poetry, and this is the best of the bunch, with the tension between the two characters rising naturally, making it all the more engrossing despite its simplicity. Lastly, ‘The Island’ by Paul R. Stafford takes place in a remote island in the Atlantic, caring for it for six months, taken in diary snapshots as the mystery of the island’s sheep unfolds, perhaps a metaphor for the impact of isolation on the mind.

You can find out more about Reflex Theatre from their Facebook page.

Read part one here.

Featured image courtesy of Living Record Productions

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