In association with Park Theatre, Antony Eden's staging of Zoe Mills' first full-length play Killing Time is a witty comedy which reflects on life, death and legacy in the time of social media. Produced by Word Mills Productions and Dead Letter Perfect, the play creates an engaging experience through mixed media performances integrated into the story.
The play focuses on Hester Brook (Brigit Forsyth), a professional cellist diagnosed with terminal cancer. Determined to spend her last days alone in her messy apartment watching television and drinking wine, Hester begins to contemplate on the right to die in a dignified manner. All her plans are disrupted however, as her eccentric and social media-obsessed carer Sara (Zoe Mills) begins to visit regularly with wine and food supply. Much to Hester's annoyance and resistance, Sara encourages her to think about her legacy - a final cello performance that could be recorded.
Forsyth's effective portrayal of Hester's sarcasm and wry humour proves to be the fuel that runs the play for 90 minutes while Mills' high-spirited performance successfully contrasts Hester's character to highlight generational differences in approach to life and technology. In addition to this, the success of the play lies in its use of video and soundscape. As Sara goes through Hester's apartment with her smartphone taking pictures of herself and the most trivial things, the audience is prompted to question the concepts of permanence and immortality in the age of social media. Her photos and video fragments are often projected onto the walls surrounding the stage, immersing the audience in two different realities existing both live on stage and on camera.
Photo credit: Darren Bell
Besides photography and video, the other compelling aspect of the play is the use of music to intensify moments of vulnerability and emotion. As Forsyth's brief performances of cello pieces create pleasant breaks between lengthy dialogues, they display another side to Hester's character. The cello almost functions as an extension of Hester, who had devoted a lifetime mastering the instrument. Through her music, the audience gets a better sense of her vulnerable side behind the sarcastic sense of humour and this creates a different way of understanding her emotions and decisions.
On the other hand, although Sara argues that life is made up of small and seemingly insignificant moments, there are times when the play could have communicated their depth more clearly. Some moments seem rushed and certain statements often feel out of place. Hester's friendship with George (Robin Herford), whom the audience encounters through a Skype call projected on stage, and vague statements about Sara's personal history are those aspects which create an overarching sense of confusion.
Photo credit: Darren Bell
Killing Time entertains the audience with its colourful characters and sense of humour while experimenting with technology and soundscape. Although at times the story loses some of its impact due to inconclusive moments, it makes up for it with witty exchanges and an intelligent and innovative critique of the concept of legacy and how our reality has changed in the social media obsessed age.