Dream, Sleep, Connect

Rosemary Jenkinson
C21 Theatre Company
Naughton Studio, Lyric Theatre, Belfast
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Targeting Brexit, the Irish border, Big Brother surveillance, Internet fraud and online dating apps, Rosemary Jenkinson’s Dream, Sleep, Connect at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast’s Naughton Studio deports itself with all the intermingled sharp absurdity and pointed topicality that is fast becoming a signature of her work.

With a playing time of around 70 minutes, it’s a swift but slight swipe at the insidious convenience of increasingly invasive technologies. Striving for relevance, it confounds its own ambitions with a painting-by-numbers scenario that too often relies on the personable performances of its two actors for effect.

Living with his mother, single for two years and dreaming of a more rewarding life outside of his programming duties for an American tech giant designing computer infrastructure to police the post-Brexit Irish border, Richard Clements’s 30-something Chris is a creature innocently in thrall to the arcane attractions of digital coding. And naïvely oblivious to its capacity for misuse.

It’s a gob-smacking ignorance that hits home when he signs up to a dating app to find a partner for the imminent office party. It’s here where Jenkinson’s sense of purpose goes somewhat awry as more digital dilemmas than you can shake a USB stick at scroll virtually by on a conveyor belt of woes to unravel the play’s allusive title.

Jenkinson is at her best when scoring often stinging political points, at her weakest when she gives in to the easy comic opportunities afforded by more domestic concerns as Clements’s digital dogsbody deals with a paranoid female boss and two improbably immediate online dates—all dextrously achieved by Maria Connolly.

Stephen Kelly’s slick, straightforward direction keeps things moving at an engaging pace but seldom does more than scratch the surface of Jenkinson’s critique of an increasingly interconnected world. If, in the end, it’s all rather thin gruel, there remains a germ of an idea in need of greater nourishment and interrogation than here where serious intent is undercut by somewhat superficial comedy.

Reviewer: Michael Quinn