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Theatre Review: Conundrum doesn’t even rate as highly as humdrum

At 75 minutes, this is a relatively short play. Nonetheless, you still find yourself asking “Is there much more of this?” writes TIM WALKER.

Anthony Ofoegbu in Conundrum. Photo: Marc Brenner.

Conundrum
Young Vic, London
Until February 4

In the good old days before the internet and computers, I’d dictate my stories over the phone to copy-takers, who would invariably and depressingly ask after I got much beyond the sixth paragraph: “Is there much more of this?” Conundrum is a relatively short play at 75 minutes, but that phrase kept running through my mind. The play, written and directed by Paul Anthony Morris, seems to last an eternity. I doubt watchmakers, in their entire careers, have felt the need to look at watch faces as often as I did as I sat through this one.

I can’t be entirely sure what it is about but, so far as I could ascertain, it is about a man – played by Anthony Ofoegbu – in an asylum who is struggling with mental and physical illness. Sean Cavanagh’s set consists of a floor upon which endless sentences are written and on which Ofoegbu talks disjointedly and occasionally goes full Marcel Marceau with a wide range of physical movements.

From time to time, he portentously says things like “I know who I am” and there are references, too, to racism and the lockdown.

A man in a white coat played by Filip Krenus occasionally sedates him.

I like to think I am a progressive critic, open to new ideas and ways of doing things, but I do also take the view that anyone putting on a show – no matter how experimental they are trying to be – should just occasionally chuck a few laughs or at least a coherent sentence the way of the punters every now and again. If you are in two minds about seeing Conundrum, I hope this puts you right.

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