What do you get when you put 10 recent graduates from Drama school into a new work written by one of their own about a subject near to their collective hearts? A wildly entertaining evening performed with enthusiasm and skill. After a sell-out season in the Camden Fringe You Tweet My Face Space is currently playing at Theatre N16, Balham in a short return season closing on 28 January.
The subject of the play revolves around social media and its place in the lives of today’s society. It opens with Charlotte, nicely played by Megan King, walking out on her boyfriend David because he places his computer as a higher priority than their relationship. Since he had turned down a session of passionate lovemaking with her to reply to a Facebook comment her walk out is totally understandable. Matters get trickier and stickier for David as each of the social media apps in his life step in to help. David eventually takes the only action possible to get his life back. He unsubscribes to them all.
The play has already started when the audience enter the theatre space. The cast are scattered around, sitting or standing, engrossed in their mobile phones. They appear to be connected by a system of wires. When Charlotte leaves the stage there is a movement sequence cleverly choreographed as each of the ‘apps’ wakes up and lights up and begins to dance. They are computer software in human forms and recognizable by the colour of their costumes and individualized movement. This directorial treatment by Anne Stoffels adds clarity and clear delineation between reality and the virtual world. This is a necessity in a play where these lines are deliberately blurred.
The role of David is played by Tom Hartwell, also the playwright, and he has done a splendid job. He treats comedy very nicely as both writer and actor. Throughout there is an abundance of laughter from the audience who can easily relate to both the word-based humour and comic situations. The narrative is well developed and flows easily. Hartwell plays David with a winning charm that gains the audience’s sympathy throughout, particularly in those scenes where the cards are ever more stacked against him. The audience are beside him as he ‘kills’ the virtual farm animals and, eventually, the apps themselves.
This is an ensemble piece and the cast is to be commended on their sparkling performances. In particular, Evan Rees shines in a playful human manifestation of Facebook with a wide range of moods and plenty of light and shade. Hadley Smith is a very suave Hotmail representation, ever so slightly depasse but definitely living up to his sobriquet. The third of the ‘real’ characters is David’s flatmate, Matt and is played by Jolyon Price. Price is another of the gorgeous young men in the cast and epitomizes the happy go lucky boy next door looking for fun and love. Matthew Gilman rounds out the male cast and plays YouTube with flair and annoying persistence.
Of the young ladies in the cast, Ellie Goffe is a stand out in her role as Instagram managing to be both sassy and sympathetic. Kate Dalzell is oddly cast as an ageing farmer complete with a curmudgeonly temperament and shepherds crook. Not being a devotee of Farmville it’s had to say how authentic an interpretation this is. Isabel Patterson runs around the set as Snapchat and her character becomes suitably confused when bought out by Facebook. The last app to make her appearance in the play is Tinder and is beautifully portrayed by Kate Okello, the matchmaker with a heart of gold and a match for every subscriber.
This is theatre at the coalface: newly minted performers in a work from an emerging writer. It’s presented in the most basic performance space with little in the way of lighting. There may be fewer production values than can be seen in many of the fringe spaces in London but this does not have a negative effect on the quality of this production. Rather it allows a greater focus on the play and players.
You Tweet My Face Space is a play that will deliver an amusing and thought provoking hour of entertainment. It’s definitely worth making time for this week.