REVIEW: Twitstorm, Park Theatre ✭✭✭

Last Updated on 6th June 2017

Twitstorm at Park Theatre
Chris England, Claire Goose, Justin Edwards and Jason Merrells in Twitstorm.

Twitstorm
Park Theatre
1st June 2017
3 Stars
BOOK NOW

The great thing about this theatre is that you can never – quite – tell where Artistic Director Jez Bond is taking it. Each new show comes along and brings with it a new departure, and certainly a bold contrast to whatever preceded it.  Each production is a risk, and while many pay off, occasionally some do not.  Well, that is the privilege of an experimental, new-writing house: it must reserve ‘the right to …’, well, if not exactly ‘fail’, then certainly to be slightly less than completely successful. Never was that more true than with this opus, a contemporary boulevard comedy, by and partly starring Chris England, set – in theory – in the world of Twitter and celebrity culture.

Twitstorm at the Park Theatre
Tom Moutchi and Justin Edwards in Twitstorm

In practice, this feels more like an endearingly old-fashioned, light-hearted slab of cheeky but still not too saucy entertainment. A sturdy and very respectable box set (Anthony Lamble, also responsible for costumes) purports to take us into the affluent abode of a TV chat-show-host-star, Guy Manton (Jason Merrells), where his marriage a la yesterday’s zeitgeist to Bex (Claire Goose) is about to be put through the media mill of having a random charity-object recipient of their long-distance philanthropy, Ike (real-life social media ‘phenomenon’, Tom Moutchi, who brings a refreshing sense of realism to the play), suddenly rock up on their doorstep and claim a kind of domestic asylum in their clean, orderly, but rather dull home.

What then ensues is one part sub-Ayckbourn social comedy (not nearly as well written as ‘Drowning On Dry Land’, recently revived and reviewed in these digital pages), one part Pinter’s ‘A Slight Ache’, two – or, actually, probably three – parts ‘Six Degrees of Separation’, shaken moderately over a low flame, and it comes served with a twist of the climax scene in Polly Stenham’s ‘Hotel’. Yes, it is a cocktail, and one that feels like it has been standing around for too long in somebody else’s sun.

Just as last year’s ‘The Busker’s Opera’ arrived at the same Finsbury Park address exactly four years too late for it to have any resonance – its parodistic anatomisation of the 2012 Olympiad falling far, far too short to qualify – this work too feels like it has missed its target by some distance. Not only that, but better, sharper wits have loosed their attacks on Twitter (et al) in between times. So that leaves director Jonathan Lewis – who has worked closely with England before – to do what he can to jack things along; to be honest, nothing he tries convinces us to believe or care much about what the play has to say.

Twitstorm at the Park Theatre
Chris England, Justin Edwards, Jason Merrels, Tom Moutchi and Ben Kavanagh in Twitstorm

If, indeed, it really is a play? The longer it goes on, the more it feels like a rejected try-out for a BBC3 comedy series: there is material enough here for about 4, 5 or possibly 6 episodes, I suppose.  And the leisurely, meandering pacing might suggest even more. But which commissioning editor today would leap at the chance to cast yet another 5-guys and just 1-girl ensemble, not forgetting the entirely cliched effeminate passive-aggressive media-bitch-interviewer (Ben Kavanagh, keeping a face as straight as his heels throughout). To say that this show does not shy away from shallow stereotypes would be an enormous understatement. Justin Edwards plays a likable but colourless best mate of Neil, who is compelled to try for getting some fairly low-rent larfs not from his dialogue, but from his closely fitted costume.

RT if you agree.

BOOK NOW FOR TWITSTORM AT THE PARK THEATRE

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