Last night I was lucky to catch the final performance of ‘The Octopus’ running as part of King’s Head Theatre’s Playmill festival of new works. I was there in my capacity as an Offcomm assessor, for those wondering why you would get a reviewer in on your final night. Plus I would be very disappointed if this dark comedy didn’t have a future life, so there may be further use for this review after all
Written and directed by Gabriel Jones, ‘The Octopus’ succeeds in being both hilarious and a terrifying indictment of modern society and our addiction to digital content and connection. Jones takes common online behaviours and pushes them into an absurd, mentally sinister space. What is particularly clever about ‘The Octopus’ is that it doesn’t overtly moralise or judge. Annabel presents her story in her own words, and the power of the piece lies in how relatable she seems at first, before we understand just how far her obsession with an online video has taken her. Madness and normality are plaited together throughout the piece, showing how closely they exist to each given the frequently dysfunctional state of our everyday lives.
Anna Chessher plays Annabel with such an unflinching conviction, she feels fully formed and real. This is a masterclass performance and I was fully engaged from start to finish. As we follow her down the ever darkening path of Annabel’s story, Chessher successfully lands the laughs, making a questionable character compelling and strangely sympathetic. Would I want to spend time with Annabel IRL? That would be a hard no! But watching her life unfold on stage was extremely satisfying. While ‘The Octopus’ is NSFW, this production of this darkly comic and fascinating new play is well worth catching wherever it might appear next.