Drowntown Lockdown – Barbicon Online

Writer and Choreographer: Rhiannon Faith

Director: Adam Sheldon

Lockdown has forced the hands of creativity to flourish in completely unexpected ways for many, and though several productions seek to transform their shows for a virtual or digital format, Rhiannon Faith’s Drowntown Lockdown, a short film, serves as a precursor to a future theatrical narrative, all the time promoting the value of our vital caregivers, therapists, and unseen sufferers during quarantine.

Weaving a contextual form of multimedia, Drowntown Lockdown steers away from an outright retelling of an intended narrative, and instead works as a prequel film to a future stage version now aiming for a 2021 performance. In both this film, and the upcoming production Drowntown, six strangers interlock with their individual darknesses. With lockdown heightening this aspect of isolation, Drowntown Lockdown intensifies the shadows cast against these individuals – the unseen enemy of a virus, the vulnerability, anxiety or lack of communication and hatred of something invisible under the skin. What could have been a cheap promotional tool emerges as a cross-platform taster of what is an assuredly intense future production.

Underpinning Faith’s narrative is the value of key workers to those with anxious, social or mental ailments, and the incapability for some to have regular access to their coping mechanisms or aid, and is expressed throughout Drowntown in sudden, pulsating movements or bouts of restlessness. Movement is a fundamental narrative tool, enhancing the origins of Drowntown as a stage creation, but this short film prequel can’t find firm footing in the digital medium.

Too many edits cause the ocean allegories of choppy seas to rear up, causing disjointed transitions between characters, and though the internal struggles of individuals could benefit from particular editing choices, it causes interference for several performers as scenes become indecipherable. Though, as the characters strive to gain a view of the sea, an unrelenting tide of chaos, openness, and freedom tightly ties the stories together. The cinematic nature overall struggles, even if the courage of producing this, without always having access to the right tools or equipment, is notable.

Rising to the challenge, Adam Sheldon snappily directs the talented cast of six, with Donald Hutera, Shelley Eva Hadden and Thomas Heyes turning in captivatingly cathartic performances. An overwhelming sense of dread, anxiety and shame exude in differing ways, from Hutera’s facial expression to Heyes relentless dread of self-serving elitists pushing for his return to work before guaranteeing safety. Drowntown Lockdown has little issue in tackling the present government’s attitudes of Pounds before People, and the invisibility of those struggling in lockdown.

Hutera’s performance has flickers of old Hollywood, drawing on a well of emotions, visuals, and performances, in a Baby Jane manner, with an underlying theme of solitude, loathing and distress. Hadden exhibits an extraordinary range of flowing contortion, clawing at herself, uncomfortable in the skin she lives in, desperately seeking a way to breathe and escape.

The severity of loneliness cannot be overstated, with an increase of premature death up 30% for those suffering, and with upwards of 11% of those over 65 describing themselves as isolated, the pang of reality is that lockdown has all but likely increased this number. The world has realised the necessity of an emotional connection, starved of mere touch – perhaps the most human of the senses – and Drowntown Lockdown demonstrates the nurturing drive we have.

Available here to stream

Image copyright –  ©Foteini Christofilopoulou

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