Slovak Theatre in London present their new devised sketch show about the pandemic, Extreme (The New Norm) at Camden Fringe. It’s a multimedia piece bringing together the madness of lockdown with its political and scientific impact.
The piece is directed by Zuzana Strnátová, designed by Sára Šišková, and devised and performed by company co-founder Simona Vrabcová, Rebeka Jurčacková, Dalibor Buranda, Simona Gibejová, Tereza Růžičková and Jozef Radovský.
Bursting with ideas, Extreme starts with a spoof retraining video picking up on the theme that the arts are useless in a pandemic, then moves into issues of vaccination, rule-breaking, parklife, mental health, and even a fashion parade of clothes made from surgical masks.
It’s a perceptive piece that looks critically and satirically at issues around the spread of Covid-19, and how ridiculous the two-metre rule and social bubbles really were when few understood them and many in power disregarded them.
There’s room for a love story, for female law enforcers to play on a bar owner’s vanity to trap him, for a beer-swigging and channel-hopping man “paid to do nothing”, and a stark statistical reminder of cases recorded.
A game show about vaccines, a park dance-off between joggers and sunbathers, and an awkward social interaction at the post office all add to the sense of the absurd on display.
Now and again, the pace falters, and the momentum is lost, but mainly Extreme is sharp, quirky, and has a feel for how we all responded to a very odd situation.
At 70 minutes, there is a lot of ground covered, with some finely tuned comic performances from the whole cast. I appreciate its focus on crisis and collective therapy, but I felt it needed a little more purpose and focus to be relevant in 2023.