Review: Correspondence Bites Off More Than It Can Chew

Correspondence, Old Red Lion ★★★☆☆

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 23 months ago
Review: Correspondence Bites Off More Than It Can Chew Correspondence, Old Red Lion 3
Joe Attewell and Ali Ariaie in Correspondence at the Old Red Lion Theatre © Richard Lakos

The Old Red Lion's new production Correspondence tackles several major issues affecting young people in the UK today.

And when we say several, we mean several.

It explores the world of online gaming and the unprecedented way it allows teenagers all over the world to connect with each other. It's a portrait of the breakdown of family life after divorce. And the main character Ben (Joe Attewell) suffers from bi-polar disorder.

Throw in the plight of Syrian refugees and you have an extremely complex set of concerns for a one act show. Phew.

But has this production bitten off more than it can chew?

The cast take on the fast-paced drama with energy, effortlessly convincing us of their characters' personalities and problems.

Intelligent Ben is geekily likeable while his bully-turned-sidekick Harriet (Jill McAusland) is a rambunctious fireball of a northern teenage girl. McAusland is one of the play's strongest links, harnessing a huge range of emotions from bravado to fear and deep affection for her friend.

The problem is that there is just too much going on for any of the (potentially equally interesting) threads of the play to be thoroughly explored.

Ben's parents David (Mark Extance) and Fran (Joanna Croll) worry and bicker when the young friends run away to Syria, then — in an extremely unlikely concatenation of circumstances — the teens find a friend of Ben's he met online gaming who has supposedly gone missing during the aftermath of the 2011 protests in Damascus.

Things get slightly ridiculous when Ben suffers a psychotic episode while abroad and ends up refusing to believe his friend Jibreel (Ali Ariaie) is who he says he is.

It all ends up a bit limp and dissatisfying, but in this over-ambitious, fussy concept, it's the acting that saves it from being a total disaster.

Correspondence is on at The Old Red Lion, 418 St John Street, EC1V 4NJ until 2 April. Tickets £16, (£13 concessions). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 12 March 2016