In lieu of their planned 2020 season, Melbourne-based theatre company ‘Bitten By Productions’ have made the move to producing online content with their fourteen-part web series ‘The Pact’. Each episode takes the form of a video chat between Morgan, our young twenty-something protagonist, and one of her many associates, to track down her missing ex-boyfriend, Brett.
‘The Pact’ is primarily a drama, though elements of mystery and thriller are thrown into the mix to create a narrative that leads its audience down a trail of unanswered questions. Most of these seem to revolve around one fateful night years ago that, for many of her friends and family, is still a touchy subject.
“The past, it’s like a scab. It’s ugly, distracting. It draws your gaze, and your disgust makes you want to pick at it. The problem is you pick at it too much and you’ll find that wound is very much still bleeding.”
Indeed, the further Morgan pries into matters best left out of her hands, the more she finds herself implicated in them. There is not much about ‘The Pact’ that is visually striking, being that it is filmed entirely through webcams. But perhaps it is more appropriate to praise the creators for their resourcefulness in these times of social distancing, pulling together a talented cast led by actress Rose Flanagan as Morgan.
Confined by close-ups for most of the series, there is a lot that rests on Flanagan’s shoulders to deliver a performance worthy of watching rather than just consuming as an audio drama. She proves herself to be more than capable of doing so, drawing out layers of complexity in Morgan. She is also partially helped by the framing of each episode as separate conversations between her and other characters, allowing different facets of her personality to surface. We see a glimpse of her rebellious teenage years as she butts heads with her father, the sly seductress makes an appearance when she is drawing information from an old flame, and most painfully we see her naked shame when confronted by the person she feels she has most wronged.
Where the episodic format falters is in some of the earlier conflicts that rise and fall to similar dramatic beats. There is some purpose here in establishing the ambiguously sensitive nature of Morgan’s past relationship with Brett, but sometimes these arguments appear to only exist to give each episode its own narrative shape rather than out of character motivation.
Though limited by its format, ‘The Pact’ places its focus squarely on its cast and titillating screenplay to present a character study of a woman haunted by guilt. Her persistence in finding closure drives the narrative forward even as she is constantly warned to stay away, so that by the end we are filled with a sense of both justice and anxiety. Bitten By Productions have made decent use of the resources at their disposal for this web series, though if circumstances push them to continue creating more online content then we might hope for something a little more ambitious.