I have to admit, having read the précis of Wink, I entered Theatre 503 with some trepidation last night. Yet another virtual reality play. Another evening spent sitting in the dark, watching people whizzing around cyber-space in ironic, choreographed “movement” pieces, listening to them talking in hash-tags and emoticons, punctuated with pounding electro music. Oh no.
The first five minutes of the play seemed to confirm my apprehension. The two characters, boy and man, stood in front of a large, glowing screen, posing each other. There, indeed, was the thumping music, the slow-motion movement piece. The first speech, by Mark, was essentially a long list of Social Media sites. I braced myself for an evening of tedium.
I should have had faith, for Wink is so, so much more than just another internet play. It is a play about human beings, genuine situations and very raw, real emotions. Mark is a sixteen year old schoolboy, desperate to emulate his cocky, confident, handsome teacher, John. John, for his part, is desperately trying to maintain his glossy façade as his world crumbles beneath his feet. When Mark decides to take his obsession one step further and starts messaging John’s girlfriend anonymously, the situation escalates quickly, with both comic and tragic results. Of course the internet plays a vital role in the scenario, but it is part of the story, rather than being the story in and of itself. Yes, the actors spin and swipe, but for the most part their movements only serve to enhance the action and underline the pathos. There is no set; everything but the actors is invisible and imagined, and it is a tribute both to the actors and to Jamie Jackson’s directing that we could see the people, places and objects that were conjured up.
Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s script is a delight; warm, honest, funny and moving. The characters are very real and all too identifiable – we know these people, and despite their manifold flaws, we like them. The actors themselves rise to the occasion and bring the characters vividly to life. Sam Clemmett is a bright, frank and engaging Mark; as he huddles over his invisible laptop, creating his online persona, you can almost see – and smell! – the typical teenager’s bedroom that he is sitting in. Leon Williams walks a fine line as John; revelling in his repellent arrogance and braggadocio before delicately letting the mask slip for a moment, so that we can see the scared, still very young boy beneath.
Both of them have immense magnetism and presence, which enables them to fill the stage for the entire ninety minutes of the play. I could not drag my eyes from them, and at one point I found that I was actually holding my breath. The end came all too soon, and although I can all too easily imagine the aftermath of the story I find that I actually would like to see it. The characters have become very real to me, and I want to know how they are.
Wink is a modern play for a modern world, but its themes, and the feelings it elicits, are timeless. A triumph.
Review by Genni Trickett
WINK by Phoebe Eclair-Powell
10th March to 4th April 2015, Tues – Sat 7.45pm (Sun 5pm)
“I am wired, awake, my mind full, my eyes fuller. I google him because for some reason he’s never not a bit in my brain, he’s sort of what I think I would like to be, maybe, Mr. Martin. And he’s there.”
John is a 27 year old teacher ‘who probably wasn’t allowed to teach at an all girls’ school’ and Mark is his 16 year old ‘Olympic porn watching’ pupil. A normal week in their normal lives – school, eat, TV, sleep, repeat.
Except in an age of twisted technology and possible profiles, the life Mark really wants is only a click away… but what happens when that life already belongs to John? By Friday shit really is going to hit the fan.
Fuelled by an electrifying mix of music and movement, WINK looks at two lives veering dangerously close to collision, asking us, what separates the man from the boy.
Friday 13th March 2015