It's been a tempestuous year for student theatre. With bricks-and-mortar theatres closed, and both audiences and actors alike stuck at home, getting bums on seats has proved quite the challenge. In what I hope is the first of many theatrical innovations, EUSOG are Edinburgh's first student theatre society to beam a musical straight into our homes, designing a new kind of streamed theatre for the Covid era. It's just a shame that this ambitious project, Click to Connect, leaves a lot to be desired, even to an audience starved of live theatre.
Rehearsed and filmed according to Scottish Government guidelines, Click to Connect follows the storylines of eight young people searching for socially distant love, taking place entirely over Zoom calls between the characters. With nothing but the actors' faces filling our screens, the writing and delivery are crucial - but relying too heavily on cringe humour, they often fall flat. The 'awkward Zoom call' trope is taken to its extreme in this performance, but it's hard to tell whether it was entirely intentional. Nonetheless, the script is conceptually very strong: it's refreshing to see such great diversity of queerness, even for student writing.
Despite collaborating with EUTV, the technical side of Click to Connect is still far from accomplished. It's not just the frankly irritating artificial video lag someone has painstakingly added in - which fortunately disappears after the first five minutes, after which everyone's wifi magically improves. The real kicker is the poor audio mixing in the vocal tracks. With one of the strongest-singing casts I've witnessed in student theatre, it is a terrible shame that pivotal moments of harmony are lost to poor volume levels.
In spite of an awkward script and technical difficulties doing their best to hinder them, there are some standout performances among Click to Connect's cast. Special mention must go to Leonie Findlay and Annie Doherty for their chemistry-rich and adorable portrayal of exes Kelsea and Lex - their scenes together will charm even the most cynical viewer. Lucy Whelan as 'baby gay' Amy and Nicola Alexander as her best friend and lesbian life coach Sam are equally entrancing; their climactic conflict will bring you to the verge of tears and the edge of your couch cushion.
Click to Connect has clearly had a lot of love poured into it by a group of extremely talented and hard-working individuals. It breaks my heart to say it - but the concept just doesn't work. The actors can't bounce off each other over Zoom; the jokes don't land. Time and time again, delivery is mistimed. EUSOG deserve so much praise for persevering in the face of the sheer adversity the arts have faced during the pandemic, and their pioneering efforts to create a new platform for student theatre at this trying time. They stand alone among the societies at Edinburgh to have attempted something so rogue and ambitious in the space of one semester. I've got my fingers crossed that they get it right next time.
Click to Connect will be streamed online from 8-12 December. Book tickets here.