Wink Skewers Our Obsession With Social Media

By Stuart Black Last edited 40 months ago
Wink Skewers Our Obsession With Social Media ★★★★★ 5

Sam Clemmett as Mark with Leon Williams as Mr Martin (in silhouette). Photo by Savannah Photographic.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

Playwright Phoebe Eclair-Powell's debut show Wink charts the ills of the internet and the sticky quicksand of social media.

At the heart of the story is the phenomenon of sock-puppetry (pretending to be someone else online), with the writer managing an extraordinary ventriloquist act herself as she gives voice to the two male characters in the tale for whom the virtual world is close to an addiction.

Mark (Sam Clemmett) is a schoolboy who counts his life in clicks, while his French teacher Mr Martin (Leon Williams) fills up his spare time by checking his girlfriend's Facebook activity. The two stand on stage throughout, delivering intertwining monologues of separate lives that they never suspect might be connected by all the snaking wires and the fug of wifi.

The twin streams of consciousness are note-perfect, Eclair-Powell weighting each word precisely, her phrasing both real and rich (and often very funny). The actors are also on terrific form and together manage to sculpt characters who seem like they've walked in off the street to get their problems off their chests.

Their flaws are subtle yet all too familiar: Mark is naive, Mr Martin bullying and slightly bitter — the former growing up too fast via his use of the internet, the latter kept pickled by it in a state of semi-adolescence. Eclair-Powell puts some wonderfully awkward, pig-headed observations into their mouths: one thinks an anorexic relative has impressive will power, the other that insecure women are better in bed.

And when they start trolling each other the comic complexity becomes quite beautiful. To sum up one instance: it's a female writer pretending to be a boorish male posing as his unhappy girlfriend who is in turn critiquing him for not being attentive enough (got that?).

The stylised direction by Jamie Jackson has shades of Danny Boyle about it, with coloured lights and uplifting electronic music adding real emotional bite to the comedy in the script. The elements of boyish ballet contributed by movement director Isla Jackson-Ritchie are similarly effective.

If there is a flaw it's that some of the street speak might be too accurate to today, so by tomorrow references to Nicki Minaj and Lad Bible may feel out of date — but maybe that's just another reason to catch the play now, while it still feels as fresh as the morning's cat meme.

The writer's mum (Jenny Eclair) confessed to us that her "womb was in knots" while watching last night, but she needn't have been so anxious — her daughter has clearly inherited a talent for pushing buttons with uncompromising comedy and on this evidence she has a great future to look forward to.

Wink is on until 4 April at the increasingly impressive (though not that easy to find) Theatre503 in Battersea. Tickets £15/£12 (with Pay-What-You-Can Sundays). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 13 March 2015