Brighton Fringe 2011
Writer Jonathan Brittain has taken a true life wall to wall relationship and skilfully shaped into a witty and at times excruciating half hour play. Some of the posts induce cringing recognition in the audience: “smiss you!” “ I want a Willuggle !” “Willipppa’s three month anniversary yay!”
This half hour lunch time play skillfully charts the course of a Facebook romance between two students. As the relationship begins, Will is into Mentallica, a tribute band, loves World of Warcraft, and writes really bad short stories. Phillippa, his wannabe muse, gives him an idea about Underwater Vampires. All this is hilariously excruciating.
Phillippa is an English Lit student, calls their goldfish Jane and Rochester; more importantly, is in the choir, resenting the leader, Jenny Murphy, who takes all the best songs.
The show charts many power shifts between the two, indicated by the status and pics on their facebook profiles, At first Phillippa is the more powerful, and when she is absent from facebook on a camping trip, Will , unable to cope with silence, posts the first “ I love you” on her wall. Later they even post to each other when both are obviously in the same room…..
When Will becomes president of the choir, and she fails to get on an MA course, we observe the inexorable decline of their love. Phillipa posts that at a forthcoming audition, she is confident of gaining the best song because only she is sleeping with the judge. Then we learn in her next post that Will has given the song to her arch rival Jenny. Finally, as the back projection attests, Will and Phillipa are no longer Friends.
Jonathan Brittain apparently condensed the material from six hours of verbatim transcript, changing names and places along the way to avoid causing offence. “We built a more satisfying narrative framework through rewriting and workshopping, but much of the original quirkiness remains. If you’re squirming in your seat peeking through your fingers, chances are it’s real. !”
Jack Swain plays Will with a well judged mix of naive romance and detachment. His performance contrasts to the more excitable playing of Phillipa. Whilst on the whole there is a fine balance of power between the two ,the balance becomes more static in the last quarter of the show, and the actress’ one note desperation becomes a little bit too much.
I love the back projection ; it could be used more, with icons perhaps as well dates and status indications.
This is a lunch time treat. It’s a heart rending, true and funny show which deserves a much bigger audience. Go and see it if you can.