Dream, Sleep, Connect – Lyric Theatre – Review
by Cathy Brown
Written by Rosemary Jenkinson
18 – 22 Feb
Rosemary Jenkinson and c21 Theatre Company have been working together for quite some time and have returned to the Lyric Theatre, Belfast for this, their sixth collaboration.
Dream, Sleep, Connect, explores the world of online dating and how the pervasion of technology is rapidly changing our personalities and our lives.
Chris is a single forty-something computer programmer who works for the omni-present and shadowy Connexia, a company providing software for the technological solution to the Irish border, alongside strict boss Lucy. An upcoming work party means that he needs a plus-one and decides to give Tinder a go but finds it hard to navigate the gap between reality and the virtual life.
Rosemary Jenkinson’s lively, punchy script barrels along, following Chris on his Tinder dates and his plans to leave Connexia and set up his own business. Jenkinson has a strong ear for dialogue and humour and there are laughs here aplenty, particularly during Chris’ first Tinder experience with the bold and brassy Tanya.
Jenkinson often explores political ideas in her work, and manages to include Brexit, Disability Benefit fraud and online scamming into the overall plot. The script is bang up-to-date with references to the Coronavirus, while references to mental health and suicide struck a more sombre note with the audience, given the headlines of the past week.
Richard Clements is a winning presence as Chris, the laid-back and sometimes hapless computer programmer who bemoans the lack of human interaction in his work and wants nothing more than to settle down and open his own shop. Maria Connelly meanwhile, has the added pressure of playing not one, but three characters. She is hilarious as online dating aficionado Tanya, a slow-burn as the nervous and nervy Cora and thoughtful as Chris’ boss Lucy, subtly showing a woman who might no be quite as corporate as she seems.
The set by Paula McCafferty is simple but effective – two work stations and a moveable bar which are used well to keep the pace moving along briskly. It’s not an easy task to make typing on a computer interesting for an audience, but a large screen to the rear of the stage is used to good effect and highlights the inanity of online dating chat.
As Chris tries to navigate the modern world, both online and off, Jenkinson’s script and Stephen Kelly’s able direction highlight the problems of communication between people when so much of what we project to the world is for online consumption. ‘When did words get so difficult?’ asks Chris as he realises that online chat has registered real-life nuance virtually impossible.
Dream, Sleep, Connect tries to pack a lot into a 70 minute show and it is not all successful. A sub-plot involving Chris’ mother and his inheritance moves the plot forward but never quite resonates and the murky nature of what exactly Connexia as a company does is hinted at but not explored in any depth.
As a satire on online dating however, it is entertainingly spot-on, highlighting how real-life interactions are being reduced to mere pixels on a screen and how ditching the apps might lead to a real and more honest connection.
Production team –
Writer – Rosemary Jenkinson
Director – Stephen Kelly
Producer – Donna Hunter
Set – Paula McCafferty
Lighting– James McFetridge
Sound– George Sloan
Cast – Bios available upon request
Lucy and Tinder dates – Maria Connolly
Chris – Richard Clements