Camden Fringe – Extreme [The New Norm]: ‘drama that has emerged far enough from the gloom’

Extreme [The New Norm]
Extreme [The New Norm]

Dramatisation in dance: Extreme [The New Norm]. Photograph: Slovak Theatre in London

Covid-19 hit us all hard, but young people had an especially bad dose of pandemic-related psychological stress. Students from other countries marooned in big-city lockdowns were perhaps most vulnerable of all.

In their 2023 Camden Fringe production, the Slovak Theatre in London offers a light take on this theme. Extreme [The New Norm], directed by Zuzana Strnatova and played by a cast of six, is a series of satirical sketches based on the Covid emotional rollercoaster.

Commenting on the aim of the show, company director and producer Simona Vrabcova says: “Whilst we tried to avoid the pandemic as a central plot construct to start with, we realised that the one pillar that bears a load of all the different kinds of extremes in our lives is precisely this recent event.”

We are reminded of the good as well as the bad of the past three years. There was, of course, ample opportunity to stop and reflect, to form new friendships and to take stock of what we want in life. But the sinister memories are dredged up too – albeit with a light touch – the social isolation, polarisation around health behaviours, and punishment for rule violation.

The most creative routines in the production are arguably those based on movement and costume. These include a hilarious dramatisation in dance of how some took enforced leisure time as an opportunity to get super-fit, while others bulged and ballooned in sofa-anchored days. And a ‘fashion show’ of ever more elaborate costumes, all tailored out of facemasks. The company is also to be commended for their mastery of regional British accents, which add a lovely zany touch to the cross-cultural flair of the performance.

Most of us would probably rather put the pandemic behind us, yet it has shaped an entire generation in ways that are bound to linger. It is refreshing to see drama that has emerged far enough from the gloom to treat the experience with humour.

Extreme [The New Norm]
The Water Rats
Until 27 August 2023

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