The sound problem clearly wasn't restricted to one rogue mic though, as when Fiston Barek entered for the second play it affected him too; the show was paused, the problem resolved and the play, Kalungi Ssebandeke's Prodigal, started again from the beginning.
Barek's Kasujja is the titular prodigal, returning to his family's flat after five years without any contact, a week too late for his mother's funeral. He says she left instructions for him to collect her life insurance paperwork, but in Ssebandeke's interpretation of the "outside" theme, his sister Rita (Robinah Kironde) won't let him into the house. The play very quickly and effectively builds up a complex story of how Kasujja and Rita fit in as two of five siblings, and why the former, the eldest, was always an outsider; although it does rely heavily on them furiously arguing for most of the play to do so, which starts to feel forced. There are green shoots of hope though, as there are everywhere in this second trio (all directed by Georgia Green, with Max Pappenheim's sound design linking the stories with the sound of planes - something that suddenly went very quiet for much of the first lockdown.)
And lockdown is directly addressed only by the final play, from one the venue's rising star writers, Zoe Cooper. Temi Wilkey performs bittersweet monologue The Kiss as Lou, who's just moved into a suburban Newcastle neighbourhood with her wife when she's put on furlough. With some of her new neighbours passive-aggressively making their feelings about a lesbian couple down the road clear, others, including the mother of a possibly transgender child, try a bit too hard to be friendly. Lou struggles to make a connection though as she's stuck inside all day, looking out at her neighbours' gardens from her window. It's a moving look at the mental health problems many faced when taken away from human contact, but Cooper has a charming and slightly surreal twist in mind to help Lou reconnect with the outside. OUTSIDE makes for a hopeful end to this theatre's online-only only season, matching the hope that the transition back to live performance as we know it is imminent.
OUTSIDE: Two Billion Beats by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Prodigal by Kalungi Ssebandeke and The Kiss by Zoe Cooper, is streaming until the 17th of April on the Orange Tree's website.
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes straight through.
Photo credit: Ali Wright.