Life in The Social Notwork is not one I have much in common with, aside from, perhaps, attending ridiculous meetings just for the free drinks and nibbles. I suppose I’ve just been fortunate so far not to have been out of work for too long, and however much the idea of ‘funemployment’ appeals when I’m sat in the day job compiling yet another report for yet another client, the sheer thought of not having an income for an undetermined indefinite period is not one I wish to dwell on for more than a second or two.
It’s easy, then, to pity (if that’s the right word) the three central characters, Karen (Ruth Keeling), Mel (Shereen Roushbaiani) and Marie (Abigail Halley), who have been made redundant from their jobs. Their predicament is fresh in the audience’s minds, this being the week in which BHS, for so long a high street bastion, has called in the administrators. I have no idea whether the script has been revised to take this (and other recent news items) into account, but there’s possibly a prophetic and certainly topical piece of dialogue in which it is asserted that whatever the national statistics may say, it’s not all glorious bliss for everyone.
The result, broadly speaking, of not having much to do during the day, turns into a variation of BBC Television’s “Last of the Summer Wine”, with the notable difference being it’s the women that get up to mischief and a man, Ken (Malcolm Jeffries), is left beyond frustrated at their antics. Here, though, the narrative starts to sag as it progresses, and its ending, I’m sorry to say, was too lazy, over-simplistic and unimaginative for my liking. The opening sequence of recorded music rattled on for so long I began to wonder if this was actually the overture for a musical; elsewhere, the scene changes are slightly too clunky – while necessary, they did break the flow of the play more than they ought to have done.
But such matters do not detract too much from what is, in the end, quite a touching story, even if it’s not quite believable in its entirety (and therein, ironically enough, lies some of its comedy value). A substantial portion of new plays continue to be set in a previous generation, mostly because (in my humble opinion) the digital era and almost ubiquitous access to social media would resolve most narratives too quickly and too easily. It is to playwright Sharon Tracey Wright’s credit that this show embraces the mobile phone revolution, particularly as those pesky little devices are often the cause of many a ruined night for other theatregoers.
Still, it is amusing, and the comedy is seldom aggressive, which I found refreshing. There’s also a deeper point to take away too. It’s possible to sit there, whining and complaining about the unfairness of life.
It’s also possible to pick oneself up and, as Karen points out, make the best of what we have. There are many social media acronyms quoted in this show. I will only use one, and not one (to the best of my recollection) used in the play itself: YOLO. You only live once.
Review by Chris Omaweng
A comedy about mums, bums and social media by Sharon Tracey Wright, directed by Adam Wollerton. The Narky Knickers Theatre production nails the zeitgeist, bringing you all the belly laughs from refusing to go belly up. Whether they’re fuming at a funeral or pushing a poodle up a tree in a panic, these feisty friends fight to survive redundancy in a very funny and truly topical tale for our times.
• Ruth Keeling as Karen
• Abigail Halley as Marie
• Shereen Roushbaiani as Mel
• Malcolm Jeffries as Ken
The Lion and Unicorn Theatre
42-44 Gaisford St, London NW5 2ED