Common Ground felt like a coffee morning. The ambience was friendly, unpretentious, and it wasn’t trying to be high art for the sake of it. If we’d been in person, I would have felt that cosiness and friendliness. But, for me, the sense of community that was so integral to the concept of the piece didn’t work over Zoom. Online, there is an inherent divide between the audience and the performers: we are attendees, they are panellists; they can see each other on screen, whilst we have no way of knowing whether we are one of ten or one of one hundred audience members. I don’t think the concept of a friendly back-and-forth chat stood up virtually.
There were some moments when I connected with the piece. The section where the characters read letters they had written to themselves felt personal, and less superficial than the earlier questions that didn’t really reveal anything about them. They were writing about their worries and their thoughts, reassuring their past selves that they had everything under control. The letters were honest, and written from the heart. The vulnerability shown in this section endeared the characters to me, and I started to hear parts in their letters that I would tell my younger self, too. I was finding common ground.
2020 onwards has been full of conversations like the ones we had in the early parts of the piece. How I like my tea, what music I like, how I’m getting on. Little conversations that don’t really mean anything. We’re all searching for a return to normality at the moment, but this impersonal chatter isn’t what we’re missing.
I’m missing late-night conversations, when you skip the small-talk and get to know everything about someone. Those conversations when you don’t need ice-breakers, and you don’t need a reason to pour your heart out. We’re so much more human in those moments, where we can get a look at our souls, the bits we never share. I miss those rare moments. I wish I knew these characters more. I wish I could have some late night conversations with Advice about our shared fear for society’s future, talk to Home about poems that mean a lot to us, and dance to ABBA with Memory. I wish I’d found a bit more common ground.