The Conditioning @ C Aquila

Two squaddies find themselves in a locked room. But why are they there? An intense and intriguing performance, tackling trust, anxiety and guilt

Review by Elaine Reid | 13 Aug 2018
  • The Conditioning

It’s pitch black when The Conditioning by Cal Jones opens and there’s just a single torchlight shone in the face of a squaddie who has civilian deaths on his conscience, and who finds himself in a room with no memory of how he arrived.

The claustrophobic feeling is intensified when the lights come up and there’s only thick black curtains on each of the walls, and a minimal number of props on the floor. A suitcase, some magazines, a stray pack of cards. A single door. But also, another squaddie.

The two squaddies, Jim and Spyro played with real talent by Cal Jones and Jack Lloyd, who find themselves in this solitary confinement, begin their regimented day – exercise via bleep tests, food via a paper bag through the locked door, and endless hours to entertain themselves as they imagine how their lives might have been if they hadn’t joined the army. As time rolls on though, cracks in their relationship begin to appear as issues of trust, anxiety and guilt roll to the forefront, and the walls seem to close in even further.

This play is intense and intriguing, and subtle touches including the way Jim and Spyro engage with the audience by sitting in the auditorium at points, exchanging a laugh or a smile as the other member of the duo recounts a story, increase this feeling of intimacy. At times, the pace of the action doesn’t flow quite as smoothly as you’d like – the initial bleep test seems overly long, the exit of Spyro seems a bit rushed – but overall the talent of Jones and Lloyd really lift this play above and beyond the limits of the thick black curtains, weaving the audience into the tangled, paranoid and confused mind of a squaddie, broken by guilt.

The Conditioning, C Aquila (Studio), 2 - 18 Aug, 20:40, £8.50 - £10.50 (£4.50 - £8.50)

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