The latest third national lockdown offering is Tom Murray’s ‘Breakout Room.’ His script plants itself right in most of the audience’s worst nightmare; a Zoom breakout room. Even worse, in a recognisable atmosphere for Durham Student Theatre members, of a breakout room for an online audition.
“Tom Murray is inviting you to join a breakout room” flashes up on the screen. Then, we meet the two auditionees, Charlie Barnett and Ben Willows, who are polar opposites. Barnett is the cliché of the annoying theatre kid, and Willows is the voice of reason. The pair use Zoom to the best of their ability, with different camera angles adding to the humour. Barnett sits a bit too close to the screen, and Willows demonstrates the irony of the name ‘Zoom’ when users cannot ‘zoom in’ on the programme by aggressively shifting his screen.
While the actors are excellent, the script is astounding. The lines are relatable, the situations are recognisable, and thus the acting was realistic. The humour is mainly acting based, with relatable lines such as the performance having to be “natural and organic,” and wondering whether the other auditionees might “psych them out” or whether the production team are “testing them.” Ending with the line “should we run it again?” is hysterical and truly brings audiences into the nerve-wracking world of online auditions.
The pair’s conversation is silly; the audience are encouraged to poke fun at the characters and their contrasting values and theories. Their “rapport” with each other and “chemistry” is certainly apparent; despite filming through a screen, Barnett and Willows bounce off each other, and their use of facial expression when the conversation dies is so accurate its terrifying. The use of awkward silences is genius and terribly convincing when Zoom installs fear in users of speaking at the same time as someone else.
Tech Director Aaron Rozanski does a brilliant job. His audio montage at the beginning is outstanding in combining sounds from various video chat platforms. Between each scene, the screen goes fuzzy and a clock ticking is heard in the background before audiences are drawn straight back into the uncomfortable breakout room. The controlled use of volume demonstrates his talents for this craft.
It is not a great time to be an actor, writer, producer or director right now. ‘Breakout Room’ allows audiences to laugh at the ridiculous situation we are in right now; Murray’s script is relatable, honest and funny. The acting is strong, and the overall production is a treat. Since it is the third national lockdown and not a lot is going on, why not set out 25 minutes of your day to relax watching others try to overcome the challenges of Zoom.
Image Credit: Ultraviolet Theatre Company
Correction: A previous version of this article claimed the Tech Director was Dragos Farcas. The Tech Directors were in fact Dragos Farcas and Aaron Rozanski. This has now been changed.