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Forsaking Others at The White Bear Theatre

When watching a play set in a previous generation – that is, a time before the ubiquity of mobile telephony and social media – it is easy to question how powers of deception deployed back in the day would work in contemporary times. Surely all one would have to do is go online and, if necessary, make enquiries in appropriate places, and all would be revealed one way or the other. A recent news story demonstrates how people are still hoodwinked in this day and age: an American woman began a relationship in Shenzhen, China with a British man. The man returned to the UK to visit family in Norwich, and never returned. So a few weeks later, she went to a Norwich community Facebook group and asked if anyone knew if he was okay: a friend of the man revealed he was married with children.

Forsaking OthersHere, Laura (Anna Bonnett) is clearing up after a party, which isn’t exactly the most riveting way to begin a play. Just as well, then, she is soon interrupted by Jess (Christie Silvester), who has a habit of asking questions of Laura even though she’s never met her before, isn’t an investigative journalist or an ambulance chaser soliciting clients and has travelled “a long way” to meet her without having made an appointment. It is rather creepy, at least at face value: how does she know Laura’s address, and how did she know Laura would be in? Having been declined entry to Laura’s apartment block, Jess gets in anyway after waiting around for someone to exit the apartment building and sneaking in before the main door shut.

There are several threats throughout the show to ‘call the police’, though it is telling that nobody ever actually does. Michael (Louis Fox), Laura’s partner, eventually takes matters into his own hands – which seems to be, believe it or not, a reasonable course of action these days: there is a difference between the saying ‘see it, say it, sorted’ and the reality of the thin blue line sometimes being so thin it is barely, if it all, visible. The play is not primarily designed to attack public services of any kind, and Jess is so sure she is on the right side of the truth that she welcomes the police coming round: “Go ahead!

This isn’t a play about the incongruousness of having an eternally positive social media profile whilst experiencing the highs and lows of life like everyone else in reality – it’s considerably deeper than that, and there were at least a couple of plot twists in the narrative that resulted in a substantial audience reaction. In a world where so many new plays try to pack in as much action as possible – not that there is anything wrong with that: after all, time is precious – this production contains several pauses in the dialogue that were so long they gave the audience as well as the characters time to reflect. It is a testament to the skilled cast and creative team that interest is maintained even in the long silences.

Fantastical personal worldviews are nothing new, at least not on stage. I thought of faded movie star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, and of Mama Rose in Gypsy, as examples of where perception and reality are far removed from one another. It’s not as clear cut here, and in the last scene, the audience isn’t made aware of what Laura is looking at as she scrolls away on her phone, leaving patrons to determine for themselves (or not) how the story would pan out after the play ends. Brief, but intriguing and insightful, the production asks its audiences to consider what it is that makes someone trustworthy. Is ‘trust no-one’ a good rule of thumb for life, or would it cause unnecessary friction with decent people?

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Laura has it all… She comes from a loving, wealthy family, is well educated, has a good job and owns her own apartment in Wimbledon. She is engaged to Michael, the man of her dreams… or so she thought! Life takes an unexpected turn when she receives a visitor bearing some distressing news.

Forsaking Others provokes us to question the things we might be afraid to ask ourselves. How well do we know those we become closest to? Who can we really trust in life? In an age where we all too often rely on the internet and social media for answers, can they always be found there?

Creative Team
Playwright | John Patterson
Director | John Patterson
Producer | Angel Theatre Company
Cast | Anna Bonnett, Louis Fox and Christie Silvester

Angel Theatre Company presents
Forsaking Others
Written & Directed by John Patterson
Tuesday 14th – Saturday 18th June 2022
The White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4DJ
https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/

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