‘Signals’, a new production by Footprint Theatre, manages to ask some difficult questions about loneliness and hard work while munching through a packet of Jaffa Cakes. Cramped into the Pleasance cellar, transformed into a stuffy office, two data analysts struggle through the monotonous night shift looking for proof of extra-terrestrial life in the bleeps and blips of radio signals. However, their motivations quickly spiral downwards into frustration as the chances of revelation seem bleak.
The script of this show is well written and well performed – the naturalistic dialogue and the obvious chemistry between the two leads is immediately engaging. I am a big fan of the extremely specific, yet common, trope of ‘professional pen-pusher is shackled together with a lazier, but not necessarily incompetent, co-worker’ and ‘Signals’ similarly seems to enjoy playing with these archetypes. Both characters are distinguished and well-rounded, and it is fascinating to watch as their personalities bounce off of one another. However the back-and-forth bickering about trivia and annoying bosses slows the production down and the show threatens to settle into the repetitiveness that its script interrogates. However, the major turn of events at the end of the story entertains a glimmer of hope and the cosiness of the previous half an hour is suddenly forgotten, and possibly hinted at being forced all along. The character archetypes are flipped, and more than the office generators go into meltdown.
The questions that ‘Signals’ asks are thoughtful ones, anxiously wondering how to find motivation in the monotony of everyday life, if dedicating your life to something is restrictive or fulfilling, and if it is worth the waiting and the boredom for the off-chance of sudden success. Is becoming dependent on a suffocating job, relationship, lifestyle justifiable if you are afraid of what else is out there? And how many re-starts are acceptable if it all falls apart?
‘Signals’ is a compassionate, weirdly gloomy show about claustrophobia not only physical, but personal, as both characters become trapped in their work and relationship. It is a distinctly human story about hard work and ambition, performed with a vulnerable charm – and also a great advert for tea time snacks.
‘Signals’ is performed at Venue 33, Pleasance Courtyard, August 6-11, 14-27 at 13:10pm
Tickets are available at the Box Office or online at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/signals