Clickbait*** (Theatre 503)

Posted: January 23, 2016 in Theatre

ClickbaitThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

Technologies that allow us to record events, readily and with ease, and social media networks that encourage us to broadcast them to the world have combined to yield many benefits and many opportunities for abuse. Milly Thomas’ dark revenge comedy, here being given its world premiere, shows us how things can go badly wrong. Holidaying in Ibiza, Nicola (Georgia Groome) takes part in a group sex party that is filmed without her knowledge. Faced with the threat of the video being put on social media, she takes control and puts it there herself. The confused emotions that result from her becoming a star of the internet, lead to her ignoring the advice of her cautious older sister Gina (Amy Dunn) and becoming inspired by the fanciful ideas of her younger sister, 15- year-old Chloe, to profit from her celebrity. Bristling with energy and raw nerve, Alice Hewkins’ Chloe is a scene stealer. The unlikeliest of entrepreneurs, she brandishes her youth as an emblem of her command of the modern world (“I know how to use a computer. I’m not 30”). She stands out among Thomas’ largely one-dimensional characters with whom it is very difficult to engage or sympathise. The big business idea is to set up a chain of booths in which the public can film themselves as they partake in intimate activities. Transforming into the three sisters from Hell, wearing identical platinum blond wigs, the ladies try to assure themselves that they are not prostitutes and not sex workers, rather they just work in sex, but the lines become blurred and maybe their new profession is not so far removed from the world’s oldest. Thomas touches on issues relating to female empowerment without developing them very far and it is only in the closing stages that the damage done to Nicola through having been abused becomes clearer and only then is Groome able to give us some insight into her motivation. Less convincing is Nicola’s tiresome on/off relationship with her dreary boyfriend Adam (Barney White). When the sisters’ business begins to unravel, it is due to poor after-sales service, the disgruntled Kat (Emma D’Arcy) putting the skids under them. For all its up-to-date trimmings, there is a sense in which Thomas’ play is not really telling us a lot that is new; sex has always been a saleable commodity, offering big profits for the winners and big penalties for the unwary. The writing is not without wit, but Thomas relies too much on the expectation that salty language and explicit sex talk will be enough to shock an audience into laughing. Holly Race Roughan gives the play a lively production, performed in an open-sided cube with trolls dancing regularly around the outside, gossiping and tweeting at the scandalous goings on. Clickbait is slick, smart and intermittently funny, but it has no heart and, consequently, its power as a commentary on modern dilemmas is much diminished.

Performance date: 22 January 2016

Photo: Oliver King


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