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Stageless, propless, and – when the wi-fi cuts – voiceless, the cast of Lagging reduces their greatest adversary, online theatre, into mere comic relief and produces a successful pilot episode in which the familiar failings of Zoom ensue in frustration and hilarity. ‘Episode One: The News’ introduces the cast and crew of the recently cancelled play, Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche, originally intended for theatre performance. The episode follows Molly and James – director and producer respectively of Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche – as they fret over how to reveal the sad news of the play’s cancellation to the cast. When the truth is revealed, it turns out that there was a contingency plan all along, albeit one with mixed reception: moving the play entirely online.

“The cast’s theatricality reflects well the painful awkwardness of online interaction.”

For a project that places itself squarely in the hyperreality of a behind-the-scenes show, the performers are theatrically individualistic and exaggerated; watching the episode there is a sense that the writers are working to imply in their characters different ‘types of people in lockdown’. There’s Sophie, the endlessly productive optimist who’ll tell you all about it; Libby, the righteously enraged cynic with a working knowledge of Jane Austen; Gaia, the one who wonders if any reason for a Zoom gathering couldn’t be summarised in an email; the disgruntled crew members unsubtly unconvinced by Molly’s grand plan to move the play online. Sure, we all have good reason to be grumpy in the midst of a second lockdown, but do these people hold anything other than contempt for one another? The only outlier in all this is the character Maddie, who acts more than once as mediator when tensions rise near to a boiling point. Her character, along with the well-timed moments of ‘technical malfunctions’ over Zoom gives the episode some much-needed relief from the otherwise unrelenting snubbery.


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The cast’s theatricality, on the other hand, reflects well the painful awkwardness of online interaction we have all come to know in the past year. Lagging is undoubtedly effective at depicting the challenge of communication while homebound, and for anyone attempting to undertake something traditionally done in person – be it theatre or an academic degree – the episode is a pleasingly cathartic experience. The decision to serialize the show is a good one; where the cast might have gotten away with producing one episode bemoaning the loss of normal life as a result of lockdown, the characters who now have something to work towards keep us invested in its progress, as well as how their relationships develop from the pilot. The relationship, specifically, between Libby and Maddie; although this is possibly a flagrant misinterpretation of the episode’s final scene, there is, if not romance, an unmistakable camaraderie between the girls as Libby teases Maddie’s frenzied media consumption while openly smiling at her, forgoing her usual grimace. Although Lagging can fall into melodrama at times, the ending is a softening of the chaos that’s come before. What comes with it is an impulse to continue watching to see where the cast of Lagging might take us next.