Review: The System (Original Theatre, online)

Paul is dead, killed at his own party. Everyone is a suspect, and most of them had a motive.

Written and performed by Emily Head, directed by Guy Unsworth, and filmed live in one take, we meet each suspect to see how they react under interrogation, and see if the mystery can be solved.

The stage at the New Wolsey Theatre becomea a complex cage (designed by David Woodhead) in this Original Theatre Online premiere. Playing every chatacter, Head uses different accents and subtle physical changes of facial expression or mannerisms to define each character.

In this groundbreaking camerawork, other characters are suggested tbrough positiining or movement, with changes of viewpoint allowing us to believe we are cutting back and forth between a range of interviews where those who knew the victim play off against each other.

Paul is slowly unmasked as someone many would want to harm, and a twisted story unfolds through the different accounts we may or may not want to believe. It is clear something is drastically wrong in this psychological thriller.

Image of Emily Head in The Systen

Ben Eeley’s camera work deaerves a mention of its own: one steadicam operator becoming part of the action so conclusively you forget he is there. There isn’t a moment lost or muffed in this live performance – meticulously planned, I know, but anything can happen on a stream.

In the post show Q&A, accent choices and character inspirations were discussed alongside what makes digital theatre unique from a production presented on stage or as a film.

The System is unapologetically both theatrical drama and a tense piece of work adapted for the screen.

Image credit: James Findlay

Following the livestream of 27 August reviewed here, The System returns on an on-demand basis from 8 September – 5 December. Book your tickets here.