Self respect is a volatile commodity. When I set out to review a show I do little to prepare myself for the performance ahead. This can be seen as either glorious objectivity or a bone idle lack of preparation, according to today’s self respect index. Tonight I am glad I came unprepared for a truly delightful bit of theatre.
First surprise was being ushered into the restaurant, the pheonix-like Prelude (formerly known as Kemps) within the Theatre Royal. We were invited to take a seat and order a drink and cake or similar. Catered for we then had headphones and a little mobile presented to us along with directions for their use.
After a suitable amount of faffing around with cake and wine we met Terry. Terry O’Donovan is the co-creator of the show with Daphna Attias and the sole performer tonight. He speaks to us through the headphones as he meanders through the cafe building a picture of his character and life. He has split from his partner Luka but starts getting some odd messages through his phone. To keep up with this we all need to keep an eye on the phones we have been given.
The tech stuff works well and makes a comment in itself about how we relate to each other, and introduces the central question of this work – what happens to our social media selves when we die? This could be a rather grim concept, but in this tale it is an opportunity to celebrate life and love and look again at some of the good things about people and relationships, and therefore inevitably some of the bad too. They are intertwangled.
Terry has unwittingly become the custodian of his ex-lover’s social media presence, despite the relationship having failed before this custody could be reallocated. This offers a moral dilemma that your parents certainly never prepared you for, how could they?
The setting of this show is unusual, but really works rather well and sets us a dilemma that we can all relate to. Terry O’Donovan gives a magnificent solo performance that is close to us yet not unduly invasive as he wanders around the cafe of contemplation. He gives us a character which we can all find some familiarity with, whatever our own lives and loves. And he gives us a dilemma that we never thought to expect, yet all of us who have ever used Facebook or Twitter or other platforms will recognise when a recently departed friend pops up again on your screen. It could be sad or worrying but it is not at all, it leaves you making new friends around your cafe table as you mull over the provocative thoughts behind this fine script. Good theatre gets us talking, and this show will be at the heart of many conversations for those of us lucky enough to have caught it.
© Julian Swainson 2019
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