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Review: The Empathy Experiment – Clare Louise Roberts

Show: The Empathy Experiment
Venue: PBH’s Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth
Star rating: ****
Reviewer: Clare Louise Roberts

It was a full, overcrowded house, with people sat lining the sides of the stage (cosy!) as spoken word artist Rose Condo acted as front of house, welcoming her audience into her space with her excited, approachable temperament. This spoken word show is an immersive theatre piece but we are calmed when Condo tells us that she has already picked her audience member to use later in the show. But there’s still plenty to come for those who love more tangible involvement in theatre.

We watch Condo as she sets up a magic box of tricks, including an easel with the ominous cards flipped over to be revealed later. This show is the final part of her experiment. Condo is trying to get all of us in the world, or at least those at the Fringe Festival, to collectively go one day a year without our phones. She hopes that this will help us up our empathy and compassion and asks: Do phones really change that at all anyway? We’re invited to participate as much as we choose to find out.

Dressed in a white lab coat, she gives us a show and tell of her books as she goes through her comical ‘8 Steps’ which she has designed to increase her empathy and compassion. A wallet of envelopes are passed around the room and we’re told to take one. Condo has tricks up her sleeve to guarantee that her show has a memorable impact on her audience, that will leave them still considering what happened after the show is over and they have left The Banshee Labyrinth.

Condo has a funny delivery whilst highlighting the issue of our phone addictions. The Context is heavy but there is always comic relief exactly where it’s needed. Her transitions from prose to poetry are smooth and seamless and her poetic storytelling is the highlight of the show.

She relaxes the audience with her light-hearted humour and conversation. She insightfully and hilariously exhibits the feelings of being lost with and without your phone. Maybe the experiment to be more compassionate is actually working.

It’s a funny show which is easy to relate to. Rose Condo has a candid way of telling her story, from magic mirrors and political narcissists to a letter to Facebook. It’s easy to picture yourself in Condo’s narrative and I start to appreciate her immersive experiment towards the end of the show.

Is the experiment a success? What are the results? Do we and does she find the ‘moment’ of being aware and of being present? You’ll have to join in with the experiment to find out.

The Empathy Experiment: tickets available here
PBH’s Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth – Banquet Hall
21-25 August
11.40am (1 hour)

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