Victory Condition by Chris Thorpe, part of the Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights programme, uncovers how constantly striving for a sense of victory in modern day life is damaging.
The title of the play is taken from video gaming where the sole objective is to win. Thorpe applies this idea to real life, asking where and how a victory appears and offers a snapshot into the reality of daily life under this conditioning to achieve a sense of glory.
The play centres on a nameless couple returning to their modern looking flat after a holiday. While they unpack and settle into their evening by preparing food and playing their Xbox, they deliver monologues about various aspects of their careers, those they encounter, as well as their way of functioning in the world. The man refers to his military background in a civil war and explains how a specific figure dominates his thoughts. The woman, on the other hand, works for a marketing and design company and reveals her isolation within her role and questions what contribution she makes to the wider world. Both seemingly show no sense of victory.
However, visually the man and woman appear to have it all, they have found their significant other, are employed and live in a modern refurbished flat. So, when each character does little more than acknowledge the other and lead very independent routines, this idea that they have achieved their biggest ‘victory’ is questioned. Although not directly addressed and often unclear, it appears that Thorpe is suggesting a world where nothing is quite as it seems and that no true victory exists.
There few powerful moments of writing in the play that call into question many daily habits that go by unnoticed. For example, the woman opens her speech about her monotonous office work life by explaining how she ends her daily morning commute without remembering how she got there or ‘a single face’ she travelled with on the way, something many Londoners can relate to. At times the writing is difficult to follow due to the crossover dialogue interjections from each character, causing some confusion. There’s also a missing ingredient to this play, directed by Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone. There needs to be a suggestion from the playwright on how to escape this bleak world the couple paint, or even clarifying how inescapable it actually is.
Although the play falls short tackling the issues that are identified, there are some strong moments in this thought provoking play, which raises deep questions about the difficulty of everyday life today.