Home » London Theatre Reviews » Fuel Theatre’s FLIP! at Soho Theatre | Review

Fuel Theatre’s FLIP! at Soho Theatre | Review

There’s not a moment to waste in FLIP!, which goes straight in, introducing the audience as soon as the house lights go down to a (fictional) app of the same name, full of video content. In some respects, there’s nothing new about the narrative arc – Carleen (Leah St Luce) and Crystal (Jadesola Odunjo) start out by making a podcast where they talk about, in their own words, “whatever we want”. Unencumbered by investors or sponsors, they are able to discuss various matters very openly – on one level, it’s possible to be slightly disappointed that they prefer to talk about relatively trivial matters such as going out for a birthday party, or that some influencer or other has put out a video detailing fifteen steps to healthy skin (more steps, Crystal points out, than the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous). On the other hand, this isn’t meant to be a high-brow podcast discussing international socio-economic and political issues. They are, as they would put it, keeping it light.

Jadesola Odunjo, Crystal, Leah St Luce, Carleen, FLIP! photo by Tristram Kenton.
Jadesola Odunjo (Crystal) and Leah St Luce (Carleen) in Flip! Photo credit Tristram Kenton.

There are moments of amusement in the observational humour, such as a podcast on questions ‘CC’ – as Carleen and Crystal (or is Crystal and Carleen?) are known – dislike being asked. They find hilarity in some people pondering whether black people “burn in the sun”. Black people’s hairstyles are of interest among certain people who aren’t black, they have found, Carleen responding to the idea of being asked permission for someone to touch her hair with a straightforward, “You’re not allowed to touch me anywhere”.

Invariably, there comes a point at which their increased online profile lands them in ‘trouble’ (inverted commas mine – it’s not like they are taken into custody) with a backlash by keyboard warriors. Carleen laughs off remarks made in ‘the comments section’ underneath a video of theirs, while Crystal finds it difficult not to take them personally (equally fair enough, given the comments mention her specifically, and they are not writing about another influencer also called Crystal). But it becomes clear that, as very nearly every successful person in any sphere finds out, it is utterly impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Even public apologies are disbelieved in some quarters.

It eventually becomes clear what FLIP! – the online platform – is. It’s more than a codename for TikTok: a person’s virtual identity is given to the company behind it, and their people use artificial intelligence to create video content, at a profit. Quite how profits are realised wasn’t clear, at least not to me, but perhaps that is another play for another time. All Carleen has to do, she’s told, is to “collect a cheque”. A cheque? In a futuristic world where AI has become advanced? It’s not quite doing a deal with the devil, as Carleen has the right to veto any content before it is released for public online viewing. Or maybe it is if she never uses her veto…

It’s a very energetic and fast-paced performance, and in all the speedy scene changes, it’s always clear exactly what’s going on. And behind the happy faces façades are some (somewhat) deeper issues being explored, such as society’s prevailing attitudes towards women’s bodies, what an appropriate response from an influencer to one of their followers dying before their time constitutes, and how far should one compromise on one’s principles in order to make a decent living? Strangely, I found myself identifying with Carleen, inasmuch as I once resigned from a job to do something else with my life, and found myself doing less work for more money.

This is a wonderfully nuanced and intriguing show, and doesn’t provide neat and tidy solutions to what are, to be fair, complicated scenarios. A thoughtful and delightful insight into the world of internet influencers.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Meet Carleen and Crystal. Two best friends with a lot to say, and a growing online following. Until their latest post sees them go too far…

The new social media platform, FLIP! offers them a second chance. Superstardom, influence, money: it’s all just a click away. FLIP! is the answer to everything they’ve ever dreamed of. But at what cost?

Leah St Luce – Carleen
Jadesola Odunjo – Crystal

Racheal Ofori – Writer
Emily Aboud – Director
Anna Robinson – Set & Costume Designer
KJ – Lighting Designer
Eliyana Evans – Sound Designer & Composer
Aline David – Movement Director
Heather Basten – Casting Director
Iman Wilson – Casting Assistant
Nikita Bala – Production Manager
Stella Kailides & Phyllys Egharevba – Company Stage Manager
Nicky Tyler – Technical Stage Manager
Myah Jeffers – Poster Photographer
CHILL Creates – Poster Design

Written by Racheal Ofori
Tue 7 – Sat 25 Nov 2023

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