The script in Screens is strong enough to give its audiences a sufficient sense of time and place despite the sparse set. If certain shows introduce the world of theatre to new audiences, this seems to be a production that introduces theatre audiences to the sort of London living that doesn’t make news headlines or ‘trends’ on social media. At surface level there is a naturalistic feel in the near-ubiquitous use of mobile telephony by both Al (a consummately engaging Declan Perring) and Ayşe (Nadia Hynes); the latter name approximately pronounced ‘eye-sha’, though I fully appreciate speakers of Turkish may disagree. More than once, their mother Emine (Fisun Burgess) finds herself telling her grown-up children to stop glaring at their phones for a while, accompanied with a look of exasperation as though she were imagining the evolution of mankind would eventually regress to a less upright gait.
It does not take long, though, for the play to turn its attention to its rather serious themes, though the political lecture (for that is what it is) given by Ben (Paul Bloomfield) to Al was frankly too forceful in tone and too meandering in content, particularly for what was supposed to be a first date. After a compelling and swiftly moving start, the show gets bogged down in highly biased and uninteresting analyses of conflicts in twentieth-century Europe. I am certain these could be removed from the play without affecting anything else that goes on.
There are, at least, opportunities to get to know the characters – it is a stretch, unfortunately, to say there is much in the way of character development, with the notable exception of Al. He must deal with numerous issues in his personal life, some of which are debatably self-inflicted but many more have arisen because of (to quote Harold Macmillan) “events, dear boy, events”.
With mention of the referendum regarding the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union and subsequent Cabinet appointments by a new Prime Minister, the play is extremely topical and up-to-date. The play does stray a little too much into ‘eff, cee and effing cee’ mode, but its portrayal of contemporary urban living in Britain today is thoroughly credible. If there are too many issues being brought to the fore in a one-act play, this is only because there are simply a lot of difficulties and imponderables in real life, and the world does not stop spinning for any of us whenever we encounter complications.
Flashes of humour permeate through the play. An early scene sees Emine and her daughter discuss settings on a new smartphone quite hilariously; a later scene between Ayşe and Charlie (George Jovanovic), presumably Ayşe’s boyfriend, begins with some comical hypocrisy about conduct and mannerisms, of others as well as themselves. Overall, however, Ayşe is totally unlikeable through her sheer abrasiveness. Let’s just say there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of speaking to people, and I could only agree with Ben’s gloomy analysis of Ayşe’s future. Even when she breaks down in the dying moments of the play it came across to me as crocodile tears. Nonetheless, it’s consistently very good acting from Nadia Hynes.
The play’s ending became obvious and inevitable some time before it happened, though I hasten to add it was not predictable from the start. It’s certainly a provocative production, and one that rightly dispenses with offering universal solutions to the issues raised. There’s much food for thought in this uncompromisingly forthright and vigorous play.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Emine is more interested in a dead cat than her kids… Al is lost in Grindr, discovering that having a love life is incompatible with his incessant need to mollycoddle his ungrateful, acid-tongued sister Ayşe – a fierce and intelligent young woman, who is drowning in the mire of social media. Screens focuses on a Turkish-Cypriot family barely treading water, clinging onto a sense of self and identity as it suddenly begins to unravel.
Playwright: Stephen Laughton (@STEPHENLAUGHT0N)
Director: Cressida Brown (Offstage_UK)
Lighting/Projection Design: Richard Williamson
Associate Lighting & Projection Design: Dan English
Sound Design: James Frewer
Design Consultant: Georgia Lowe
Wardrobe Assistant: Emma Lucy
Stage Manager: Richard Irvine
Production Manager: Richard Irvine
Producer: Paul Bloomfield
Associate Producer Robyn Bennett
Al: Declan Perring
Ayşe : Nadia Hynes
Emine: Fisun Burgess
Ben: Paul Bloomfield
Charlie: George Jovanovic
by Stephen Laughton
10th August – 3rd September 2016, 7:45pm