Social media. Two rather innocuous sounding words that when put together are more powerful at taking over the world than an army full of crazed generals marching their troops over borders as though they didn’t exist. Like it or loathe it, social media is here to stay. The two biggies in the social media world are of course Facebook and Twitter. And it is the latter of these two that is at the centre of Chris England’s new play Twitstorm at the Park Theatre.
Guy Manton (Jason Merrells) has it all. He is the presenter of the successful show ‘Arguing the Toss’, written by his best friend Neil (Justin Edwards). His wife Bex (Claire Goose) is a successful author in her own right and the couple are at that level of wealth that they can afford to send a monthly direct debit to sponsor a child in Africa, without it causing them any hardship. Guy’s Manager Rupert (Chris England) is looking at taking the show, along with Guy, to the USA and, really everything in Guy’s garden is, as they say rosy. And then, one day, Ike (Tom Moutchi) turns up on Guy’s door claiming to be one of the African children the Manton’s had sponsored, now grown into a man. The family welcome Ike into their home – Bex happily, Guy reluctantly – and life carries on until one day Guy makes a rather inappropriate ‘joke’ at Ike’s expense. Although he doesn’t ‘do’ Twitter, Guy does have an account which is looked after by Neil and, through no fault of Guy, the ‘joke’ gets tweeted out to the world causing, to use the current vernacular ‘Twitter to go into meltdown’. As his attempts to calm the storm fail dramatically, Guy is soon up the proverbial creek without a proverbial paddle. Can his salvation come with the ultra PC online journalist Daniel Priest (Ben Kavanagh) or has Guy gone 140 characters too far.
So, confession time. I am a really dedicated Twitter user. I tweet about my bus journey to work, my random thoughts and every Sunday sees me joining the #Marr and #TheArchers tweetalong – yes it’s a real word – with gusto. I have therefore seen plenty of these Twitter storms when blow up when someone tweets something that gets up the nose of other Twitter users. We only have to look to the USA where @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS are constantly managing to upset people in 140 characters. I think that Chris England has really captured the feel and flavour of a Twitter storm extremely well, particularly the speed at which the online world will turn on someone they consider has offended them. However, I did feel it took a long time coming. The offending tweet didn’t get sent until the end of Act I and a lot of time was spent establishing the characters and their motivations before that. I also think, and remember this is a personal opinion, it would have been better not to discover who had sent the tweet until later in Act II. If you hadn’t seen them do it, there were three really good suspects with the means, motive and opportunity to ‘stitch’ Guy up. Having said that, I did enjoy the play and the writing was first rate with some real belly laugh moments. And Guy’s rant in the second act at Daniel Priest was really spot on in every respect. And speaking of Daniel, a quick mention for Ben Kavanagh here. His portrayal of Daniel was perfect. Without saying too much, Ben conveyed all the small minded, narrow opinion and general disdain of everyone else that the ultra-righteous PC brigade manage to convey when dealing with those not as enlightened as themselves. A great piece of acting from Ben there. Overall, this is a very talented cast. All of them played their parts beautifully and, Justin Edward’s Neil was a really lovely piece of acting, particularly as he started binge eating snacks while staring at the offending tweet with a face that literally said a thousand words.
Jonathan Lewis’ direction was on the whole really good, though there was a point, when Guy was doing his rant, that from where I was sat, Bex was completely hidden by Rupert so I wasn’t able to see her reaction as Guy really went for it. I loved the tweets appearing on the screens above Anthony Lamble’s set though the timing was occasionally out with the tweet appearing before the writer had finished typing. And, I have to say, whoever was responsible for the music choices during the scene changes – Bravo, absolutely Bravo.
Overall, then Twitstorm is a good show that nips at the ankles of the PC brigade and those ready to take offence at the slightest provocation. I thought the story was good and the acting first rate. I would have liked a bit more meat on the bone of the story and am still not 100% sure about the ending, though it made me laugh. But ultimately I would say Twitstorm is something worth seeing for a fun and funny night out. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to tweet about it from @Terry_Ea – #pleasefollowme
Review by Terry Eastham
Cahoots Theatre Company in association with Simon Fielder Productions and Park Theatre present the World Premiere of
By Chris England
Directed by Jonathan Lewis
Guy Manton is a national treasure, the much-loved host of a caustic television panel show, until a throwaway remark is inadvertently shared with the whole world and, before Guy knows what is happening, he is being battered by the Twitstorm.
A hilarious exploration of what can happen when the self-righteousness of social media gets out of hand. From Chris England author of the hit comedy Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson and co-author of the acclaimed An Evening with Gary Lineker.
From the producer behind Park Theatre hits Dead Sheep, An Audience with Jimmy Savile, The Roundabout and Deny, Deny, Deny.
Cast includes Jason Merrells (Emmerdale, Waterloo Road, Cutting It, Casualty), Claire Goose (The Coroner, Unforgotten, Waking The Dead, Casualty), Justin Edwards (The Thick Of It, Skins, Love and Friendship), Ben Kavanagh (Closer To Heaven, Boy Meets Boy), Chris England (Harry Enfield’s Television Programme) and social media star Tom Moutchi.
Design by Anthony Lamble, Costume Design by Sarah June Mills, Lighting Design by Tim Mitchell, Composed by Matthew Strachan and Sound Design by Chris Packham.
Time2 hours 15 mins approx.
Plays: 31 May – 1 Jul 2017