Review: The New Normal (RebCat, online)

At the end of 2020, RebCat Creations made a play available online called The Truth Serum. This explored three relationships based in London and Milan during the lockdown. Now, many of those characters return in a sequel, The New Normal, which streamed last night. Both plays run just over an hour each, and could be combined into one coherent piece.

The New Normal is a play streamed over Zoom and focusing on family dynamics and choices in a circumstance where marriages may be broken, jobs furloughed, businesses closed, and new friendships forged. It is not necessary to have knowledge of the first play – I didn’t – as the narrators help to explain who’s who as we progress through the play, reacting to their own uncertain times.

The RebCat Creations collective comprises co-founders Catherine and Rebecca Dixon (co-writers of this show; Catherine also directs), and creative director Otto Terrell. Their tagline is “staging stories for modern times”, and this is certainly true of The New Normal, which addresses the COVID pandemic without directly including it in terms of character illness or death. Instead it is the human cost and opportunity which comes from a pause in normal life which is the main focus of attention.

A play about human connections, performed live in Europe and the USA, wherever the performers are based, this has moments that will reach all of those watching. For young Matteo (Michael Jennings, exploring both grief and adventure very well) and divorcee Moira (Lorraine Flaherty, movingly heading into a new flowering of love) there are great changes afoot and unexplored chances.

The cast of The New Normal

For married couple Giovanna (a resolute Alyssa D’Adamo) and Luca (a stubborn Dusan Djurovic), the pandemic may have closed one business door, but opens another. Bridget (Margaret Dixon, offering a reasoned approach to change) and Flavia (Irene Panni, juggling emotions deftly related to son Matteo) are interesting characters with backstories which appear ripe for further exploration, but they have less to do across this play other than react to or offer advice to other characters.

I found The New Normal a provoking piece, which picks up on the uncertainties and anxieties we may all feel at the moment. Given it was being performed in various different countries by a cast who have mostly never met, slight issues of pacing and reaction can be forgiven; and there were no technical issues noticable. This is a play which works well as a standalone piece, with moments of black humour from the Narrators (sharpsuited and sardonic Louis Halfpenny and Otto Terrell), and even a caring, perceptive, therapist in the role of Carla (a measured Rebecca Dixon).

With music from Valentina Pennesi, and a deliberate design which removes the distraction of detailed sets, The New Normal hints at the chaos outside through other means (including the scene by scene dischevelled garb of the Narrators), while keeping the individual human perspective centre stage.

You can view The New Normal tonight (the 21st) at 7pm; for more information and to book tickets go here. You can also purchase tickets for a recording of The Truth Serum. Profits from The New Normal go to Marie Curie.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review The New Normal.

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