In Real Life at Rosemary Branch Theatre before heading to Edinburgh Fringe Festival

In Real LifeThe idea behind this short play is intriguing – what would it take for a completely normal person, just like you or me, to become a stalker? You can shake your head, convinced it could never happen to you, however as In Real Life conclusively shows, the mind-boggling range of online communication facilities now available to us means that it is only too easy to become obsessed with someone whilst remaining faceless and anonymous. Most unsettlingly, what it shows us is that privacy is very much a thing of the past. As they say – “everyone comes up on Google!”

Anna is an ordinary, everyday girl; young, attractive, with a rather mundane job as a PR intern and an active social life. She lives in London, but this is irrelevant; her story could happen anywhere. A chance meeting with a conceptual artist called Jay has a profound effect on her and sends her online in an effort to make contact with her, which she does – under a false name. A relationship quickly builds, then darkens, then sours, as the frustrated Jay desperately seeks to meet Anna “in real life”, while Anna burrows deeper and deeper into the comfortable anonymity of the internet, abandoning her friends in favour of a virtual relationship which is fast becoming more real to her than anything else.

The concept is great; accessible, thought provoking and slightly sinister. However the production never seems to reach a definite conclusion, or even to guide you into forming your own; you leave the theatre grasping a bunch of loose ends and wondering how exactly to tie them together. How to reconcile Anna’s disapproval of her mother’s online relationships and Facebook obsession with her own actions? Is her absent father a factor in her downward spiral? Why does Jay continue to put up with Anna’s increasingly eccentric behaviour when she clearly has an active and satisfying love life already? The fact that Jay is a girl is never fully explored either; Is Anna a lesbian, or does the fact that she is suddenly attracted to a girl contribute to her reluctance to come into the open? It is wonderful when a play asks interesting questions, but at least some of them should be answered.

The acting is generally good; Aella Jordan-Edge is convincing as the slowly crumbling Anna, and her ultimate breakdown is touching. Elizabeth B Harris as Jay is something of a cipher; we never get any real insights into her character or motivation, though that is largely due to the script. Jennifer Wakely is scene-stealingly good as absolutely everybody else; peering vaguely over her specs at the Skype screen as Anna’s mum, wafting caftans and bohemian spirit as Marguerite, bubbling with cuteness as Anna’s revoltingly loved-up colleague. Her scenes bring a welcome breeze of lightness and humour into a play which occasionally threatens to suffocate on its own naïve self-consciousness and heavy direction.

Overall though, this is an original and intelligent play.  Tight production, a great, thoughtful soundtrack and clever writing will no doubt make it a success in Edinburgh, which it certainly deserves to be.

Review by Genni Trickett

See what else is on at www.rosemarybranch.co.uk

In Real Life [IRL]
Could YOU be an internet stalker? Anyone could… Inspired from a true story, this all-female cast explore how a gal-next-door finds herself playing cat-fish and mouse. Alice and Jay are engaged in an online relationship, but who are they really? In Real Life (IRL) looks deep into the phenomena of the internet and how it can allow you to be someone else.

Wednesday 31st July 2013

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