A Gym Thing, Pleasance Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Will is having a rough time so isn’t inclined to leave his Playstation. His worried mate Jay convinces him to join the gym with him, in the hope that it pulls him out of his funk. Unknowingly, Jay creates a monster. The gym gives Will not just new-found purpose, but triggers an addiction that totally transforms him from quiet and shy into a vain, self-absorbed and destructive force.

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Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court

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by Laura Kressly

I reckon you can find any kind of furniture you’d like flatpacked. You can even buy flatpack houses. But would you purchase a build-your-own family member that’s totally programme to fit your idea of a perfect person?

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Trashed, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Amy Toledano

Trashed is a high energy, thrilling and heartbreaking show that has the audience hooked from beginning to end. David William Byran plays Keith – a rubbish collector from a working class community in the UK. Throughout, Keith is engaging with the audience, asking questions and offering some of his beer, which he drinks continuously throughout the piece.

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Feature | Addiction and the Audience in People, Places & Things

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by guest critic Steven Strauss

Heaps of deserved praise has been showered on Jeremy Herrin’s production of Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places & Things, with much directed at Denise Gough’s thrillingly committed performance of a struggling actor in rehab. Yet after seeing it at Wyndham’s Theatre in mid-2016 then its New York City run this year, it’s easy to see there’s more to it than Gough. A second, transatlantic viewing proves just how thoroughly the production theatricalises addicts’ experiences in order to generate audience empathy with the struggle to overcome addiction.

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You Tweet My Face Space, Theatre N16

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David and Charlotte’s ten-year relationship is on the rocks. He’s struggling with an addiction that’s pushing her out of his busy life, but David’s social media and internet habits aren’t allowing him to give Charlotte the attention she deserves. When an indiscretion on a night out is immediately published and Charlotte leaves him, David vows to quit cold turkey. It’s not so easy though. As the personified apps crash his peace and quiet, this romcom takes a surreal, satirical turn. With bitingly funny moments, good comic timing and some good performances, this surprising one-act is a great giggle for those of us enslaved by technology.

Tom Hartwell is the bookish, quiet David who’s frustration becomes real and relatable. He’s wonderfully foiled by characters such as Hotmail (suave, aloof Hadley Smith), self-obsessed Instagram (girl next door Ellie Goffe with a heart of gold) and Facebook (subtly vicious Evan Rees). Tinder (Kate Okello), Farmville (the wonderfully dour Katie Dalzell) and a couple of others join in to try to persuade David to stay in the internet realm, and some glorious clashes ensue with plenty of digital pop culture in-jokes. Pacing is excellent, as is the energy and ensemble work of the cast.

Hartwell is also the playwright; he has good intuition for the relationship story arc that frames and justifies the chaos, though the moral is a rather obvious one and not particularly profound. His dialogue is punchy and fun, regularly inducing laughs. (It would be interesting to see what his serious material is like.) Director Anne Stoffels has her hands full with a large cast in a small space, but usually manages to keep the action moving without messiness.

For a social media comedy, You Tweet My Face Space is well crafted and even though some of the performances are weaker than others, it reminds us to take a break from our online worlds and interact with people face-to-face more often. It’s a fun, frivolous piece with some excellent moments and a bit of post-holiday season fun.

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