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Review: Deep Blue at Liverpool Everyman ****

It’s a strange and confusing contradiction that in this modern world, despite ‘connection’ being just a tapped screen away, more and more of us are feeling adrift and alone.

The impulses that underpin the human condition – the need for connection, belonging, and the feeling of dislocation - are all explored in this funny, thoughtful and at times piercingly painful piece of compelling and energetic gig theatre from the inventive people at Paperwork.

In an unnamed ‘once upon a seaside town’, 30-something Riley (Danielle McLauren) is living a solo existence, working a job she doesn’t love for a boss (Holly Phelps) she doesn’t like, talking to her houseplant Harry (Jake Holmes) and living for Thursday night pub quizzes and laughs with her best mate Alex (Holly Mallett).

Riley may have 467 Facebook friends, but her real world has shrunk. Her parents have emigrated halfway across the world, her friends have fallen away one by one into their own busy lives, and even loved-up Alex can’t be relied on anymore.

She’s “not alone – but fallen between the cracks. Between what she expected life to be like and the reality”.

It’s a feeling many of us can empathise with, even if we don’t all haunt the aisles and self-checkouts at Tesco when our cravings for an emotional fix get too strong.

It’s also a feeling that can spiral out of control, as it does here over 85 minutes where reality and fantasy swirl and collide in a world that’s saturated a metaphorical blue – blue as the internalised tidal misery of an empty deep which threatens to consume her.

Will Riley ultimately sink, or will she resurface and find she may not be as alone as she feels?

The production is written by Hayley Greggs and deftly directed by Nicole Behan, while movement director Grace Goulding brings a similar sense of intimacy to the are-they-fantasy, are-they-reality sequences between Riley and Robin Morrissey’s Matt (the too-good-to-be-true object of her impulsive affection) as she did to the recent A Billion Times I Love You on the same stage.

I said ‘gig theatre’ at the start and it does have that energetic Deaf School vibe, but it’s more part-gig part-theatre, with the versatile actor/musicians punctuating the narrative (and narration) with dynamic bursts of original punk/indie-rock composed by The Mono LPs’ Steve and Vicky Reid.

Top: Danielle McLauren at Riley in Deep Blue. Photo by Brian Roberts.


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