Review: The System (Brighton Fringe)

Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company bring Edward Loboda’s play The System to Brighton Fringe in a Zoom re-recording of a show they originally streamed in 2020.

The place and time are familiar, the characters are ordinary, but something is off. A system is in place “for the good of all” and everyone accepts it. But are things about to change?

Of course, Zoom has its limitations but these are surmounted by matching backgrounds to suggest characters share the same location. What matters is the faceless “they” who manage every movement in the world these people inhabit.

Granny Iva (Ellie Darvill) is a strong-willed lady just wishing for “one more year, one more decade”. It becomes plain that what we are dealing with is a ruling organisation who get to decide who lives and who is euthanised – the Department of Scheduled Euthanasia (DOSE) now impacts on the family of Timmy (Liam Alexandru).

Until he meets Timmy, Blake (played by Loboda) has never questioned the system, accepting it for the greater good. Both his parents (Dawn Butler and Morgan Rees-Davies) work for DOSE, but are they morally strong or flawed?

Promotional image for The System

As this is an on-demand recording, I was surprised there were some dialogue slip-ups and visible scripts in some scenes. It didn’t necessarily detract from the play itself, but with more careful editing it would make The System look a little more professional.

There is excellent rapport between the characters who share scenes, and it is is easy to forget they are not actually in the same place. However, the material is very challenging and complex and I was not entirely convinced of it in this format. I understand a full stage version is in development and I think this would be far more effective with audience reactions and tensions.

The topic is very relevant to these times, where people are living longer – although I would have liked The System to have given some thought to older people’s worth in the job market, or as grey pound spenders as they age. Seventy seems an arbitary age to remove people from this world, with no real explanation other than “it is necessary”.

Ultimately, The System is an intriguing piece which asks lots of pertinent questions, but could stretch itself a little further if it was braver in addressing the fundamental issues and dilemmas around euthanasia.

Fringe rating: ***

You can watch The System at the Living Record as part of the Brighton Fringe. Book your ticket (£8) here.