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Review of Nina Millns’ Delete at the Actor Awareness Festival

Nina Millns
Nina Millns

An intriguing narrative in Delete redeems a script that sometimes has generous doses of colourful language simply because it can. Patricia (Illona Linthwaite) is one of those people for whom a tweet is a bird call and walls are only written on by toddlers, and even then, there is The Parental Reprimand in response. So here comes Tanya (Nina Millns), who visits Patricia as part of her community service sentence. If it is unclear what the sentence is for, that is because Patricia doesn’t ask: this is all oh-so-British. Tanya, technologically literate, assists Patricia with usernames and passwords, social media accounts, and so on.

But neither is quite aware what lies in store for Patricia, as she uses her political activism. Strongly worded pronouncements on the conduct (or lack thereof) on a politician, Patrick McKenzie, an off-stage character, eventually spill over into personal – and thus inappropriate – remarks. The web, without going into specifics and giving too much away, responds in the cynical and satirical way in which it tends to. The production therefore asks, subtly, whether Patricia was deserving of such cutting responses. She is, understandably, shocked and disturbed that her words have been misinterpreted, and – more to the point – her highlighting of the disappearance of a schoolgirl appears to have been sidelined, such that Patricia is gaining notoriety instead of the case of the missing person becoming known.

A subplot involving Sue (Balvinder Sopal) and her private life initially comes across as superfluous, even vacuous. After a significant plot twist involving Marcus (Matthew Hebden), it was difficult to feel much sympathy for either character. But, everyone on community service is supervised by a probation services officer, and Sue happens to be Tanya’s. Tanya is also the show’s narrator, and her
perspective is distinctly working-class. But this isn’t yet another show where the working-class is lampooned: the well-spoken Patricia makes no attempt to correct Tanya’s enunciation or any of her mannerisms.

Thanks to some nifty footwork on the part of the cast, and relatively simple staging, the scene changes are swift and smooth. Every so often, however, Tanya’s youth becomes almost blindingly evident, such as when she struggles with a compact camera because she has only ever used a smartphone. “I must use every privilege I have,” insists Patricia, in order to stand up for what she believes to be causes worth fighting for.

The show is certainly thought-provoking, raising questions rather than offering neat solutions to problems encountered by the on-stage characters. Take Patricia’s adverse reaction to the backlash created by one of her bold and outlandish statements, for instance. This is someone who has been campaigning on issues affecting society for decades, and would, presumably, have suffered abusive communications before. Can it really be she struggles with negative responses on social media? But then again, it could just be that the web was the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.

There are moments of comic relief, but these, perhaps aptly, are fleeting. The production does well to highlight the simple truth that many, many people are encountering difficulties, whatever their station in life. Was the course of action taken by Tanya on Patricia’s behalf (the show is called Delete for a reason) the right one? In the ‘age of Trump’, where provocative tweeting does indeed elicit many responses, who knows? A bittersweet and hard-hitting play.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Delete is a funny, poignant and ultimately shocking play about an unlikely friendship between three women in a world saturated in online abuse, addiction and sexual violence. As Tanya uses online resources to move away from a life of addiction into self-actualisation, her parole officer, Sue, is immersed in the digital dating scene. Patricia is introduced to the World Wide Web late in life through Tanya’s Community Service scheme, and by chance finds herself embroiled in the darker side of the online world through a heart-breaking story about sexual abuse. Her lack of internet etiquette and general street smart sees her plunging deeper into a mess of political cover ups and direct action that culminates in tragedy.

Perfect for the #MeToo era this piece puts women’s voices centre-stage. The diversity of ages, class and ethnic backgrounds ensures a fresh and essential perspective on contemporary life – all done with a healthy dose of humour.

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