Review: Conspiracy, New Diorama Theatre

Barrel Organ’s emotionally open Conspiracy puts the conspiracy theorists under the spotlight at the New Diorama Theatre

“Take it away from the carpeted area”

The world of conspiracy theories is an easy one to mock but though Barrel Organ’s Conspiracy runs the gamut from Area 51 to Princess Diana’s death via Elvis, JFK and the moon landing, there’s something much more sophisticated, and sympathetic, at work here. Rather, the focus is on the people who buy into those theories, those develop and defend them so avidly, and the cost that pursuing ‘truth’ has on both themselves and their relationships.

The jumping off point of Jack Perkins’ text is the iconic 1932 photograph ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ – you know, the one from Act 2 of Heartbeat of Home – and to begin with, the amiable trio of Rose Wardlaw, Azan Ahmed and Shannon Hayes take us on a beguiling journey through their meticulous research into all the problems they’ve found. Dates that don’t match up, names that can’t be found, clouds doing the wrong thing, lunchboxes that don’t convince…gotta be a fake right?

Using the frame of recording themselves (for a podcast?), the first half of this devised sparkles and shines as their revelations are accompanied by bantz and bickering between the three of them threatens to derail the whole thing, not least as their speculation becomes ever more wildish. Directed with a good measure of freedom by Dan Hutton (the interaction with the audience is delightful), their interplay reveals much about them – the need for control in a world sorely lacking it, their desperation for someone to believe them and take them seriously.  

Something happens once the wheels do come off though, a lack of focus that points up the straight-forwardness of this production. Little is ultimately asked of the audience and it is hard not to wish that some of what is implicated in the final image had been work into the show to give it a different depth. Still, Wardlaw excels as a millennial Monica-from-Friends-type, Hayes’ comedic warmth fills the room and Azan Ahmed gets sprayed with water (which will appeal to a not-insignificant subset of my readers.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
Photos: The Other Richard 
Conspiracy is booking at the New Diorama Theatre until 5th October

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