'Connected' by Karl Quinn and Will Irvine.

'Connected' by Karl Quinn and Will Irvine.

Project’s Space Upstairs was full of the buzz one normally finds at festival time. This makes sense, as Connected, written and performed by Karl Quinn and Will Irvine, started life as a ‘Show in a Bag’, via Fishamble and the Absolut Fringe Festival 2010. Said buzz was created by the very demographic that, if you go to even one theatre seminar/festival talkback/prestigious theatre magazine forum, is often mentioned as the audience that theatre companies/festivals/artistic directors want to entice through their doors: the Youngs. This crowd, aged 20 to 30, are found to be elusive in the general way of theatrical things, and if Connected does one thing, it shows that to draw the Youngs into the foyer, you actually have to give them something they want to see, which is: themselves. And if you show them themselves, they then will come in numbers, RWAA1 to LOL2.

Daz (Quinn) and Simon (Irvine) are twenty-first century versions of young turks. Their nineteenth century counterparts raised arms against the Ottoman empire, and were radicals agitating for reform; these lads are taking corporate culture down, one mouse click at a time. They fight the power primarily by time wasting, engaging in multi-player video games, stalking girls on Facebook, and barely meeting their deadlines. Well, that’s Daz’s raison d'être; Simon, who is slightly higher up the food chain than Daz, takes things somewhat more seriously. It is he, after all, who is answerable up that chain, and it is he who has some idea that there might be more, IRL, than can be found either at his desk in the Internal Accounts Department, or online.

This makes Simon an object of terrible scorn as far as Daz is concerned. There is not an ambition that cannot be shot down, not a foible that cannot be slagged, not a dream that cannot be pissed on. Daz, meanwhile, dosses around at work, which appears to be a holding pen between bed and the pub, and generally talks trash from one end of the day to the next. He is, in short, an obnoxious prick, and truly deserves to get his comeuppance — which he does, when he decides to set Simon up for a fall in Second Life.

Is there an emoticon for ‘slight wince’? Because while it suits the purposes of the play down to the ground, Second Life is so, like, 2007. Connected manages to avoid the many, many pitfalls that befall a text that seeks to express the internet zeitgeist, and the only way, one supposes, that they could have avoided the jumped-the-shark feeling of Second Life was making up a virtual world themselves... which is fraught with even more pitfalls. The tumbling of memes from the top of the pile happens so quickly in cyberspace, that despite the après-garde feeling in the use of Second Life, the choice was correct, because in order to tell the truth about their feelings, the lads need to pretend to be other people.

Daz and Simon’s friendship seems to be an endless skirl of put-downs and mean-spirited jibes about sexual prowess (or lack thereof). The lads have no way of talking to each other, as each other, outside of this context, and when they eventually reveal themselves in ways that are not the norm, the consequences are complex, and ask interesting questions about what some men may be missing by being unable to communicate, on a deep level, with one another. The moments in which Daz and Simon discover the duplicity of the other are entirely wrenching, and give gravitas to a piece that, at the beginning, appears to be yet another amusing look at our new point-and-click culture.

With regard to the production, OMG is in the details: a new day at work is heralded by the Windows booting-up anthem; director Iseult Golden ensures that her actors fully embody every single movement, from playing a war game to tying on their imaginary keyboards. The world outside their window, simply and perfectly depicted by designer Andrew Clancy’s pixellated view in gray, is as unfocused as the men’s goals. And when Daz is left, in lighting designer Colm Maher’s wrenching spotlight, there’s a real feeling of loss to the piece that was not expected from its boisterous opening.

The play ends with a similar burst of sniper fire, with the war game now being played out over a distance, and makes one wonder if the play might well have ended with the woebegone Daz having been abandoned at his computer as Simon heads off to pursue his dream. Despite it being a virtual world, on many levels, there’s an argument for the lads to keep meeting in a made-up place in which they can get on one another’s backs — it doesn’t seem possible, sadly, that they’ve got the tools to do so in person. There is a superficial feeling of uplift, but a greater feeling of loss that Simon and Daz will be stuck at this level for the rest of their lives, with no chance to advance. They’re just not wired for it.

Susan Conley is an arts journalist and novelist.

1 Ready Willing And Able
2 You don’t know what this means?!? FFS!

  • Review
  • Theatre

Connected by Karl Quinn and Will Irvine

8 - 19 February, 2011

Produced by Karl Quinn and Will Irvine
In Project Arts Centre

Directed by Iseult Golden

Lighting Design: Colm Maher

Set Design: Andrew Clancy

Sound Design: Iseult Golden

With: Karl Quinn and Will Irvine


Connected was developed with Fishamble, ITI and Absolut Fringe as part of 'Show in a Bag' (2010).