This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com
Dramas about the internet and virtual reality have been in abundance in recent times, meaning that a quick read through of a synopsis of this, Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s first full- length play, could be followed by a big yawn. Yet, happily, the play is less about the internet than the people who use it, meaning that, in one way or another, it is about most of us. Mark (Sam Clemmett) is a 16 year old schoolboy who sees in his French teacher, 27 year old John (Leon Williams), the man that he dreams of becoming, envying his fashion model good looks and his dream girlfriend. He pursues his fascination through social media and sets up a fake Facebook account to begin a dialogue with the girlfriend. However, Mark’s Facebook messages and emoticon winks are received and answered by John, who is suspicious that his girlfriend is, like himself, having an affair. The comedy of errors that follows is played out on a bare stage with just the two actors. Jamie Jackson’s production incorporates flowing movement suggesting the dreamy virtual reality to which both characters escape and making the play as interesting to look at as it is to listen to. Mark is a confused and lonely boy, feeling his way around the adult world which lies ahead. John has reached that world, but retains all the insecurities of a boy. It comes as little surprise that Clemmett, so good in Accolade recently, shows a degree of maturity to belie his years and Williams too gives a performance which does full justice to the freshness of the writing. It could have been expected that Eclair-Powell would have inherited a comedy gene and, true to form, her dialogue is peppered with very funny one- liners; however, it is the insight in her writing and the tenderness shown towards her characters which are the most memorable features of her play. The writer’s gender may allow her licence to give the characters lines about women which could have led to raised eyebrows if written by a man. Beyond that, one of the most surprising things about Eclair-Powell’s play, much of which centres on a world of machismo, is that it has no feminist angle at all; she writes simply and truthfully about two human beings who happen to be male. Low key and running for under 90 minutes, this little gem reveals a new writer full of promise.
Performance date: 12 March 2015