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Camden Fringe 2009

Rob Is

Trunkman Productions

Venue: Camden Peoples Theatre


Low Down

“I can’t find this Twit-face thing everyone’s on about.” So says Rob Morgan, the lead in this high energy tirade against man’s nemesis, the Net. He’s referring to Twitter of course.

From Facebook  to Youtube, “Tweeting” to blogging, with all the swarms of chat rooms, forums, paid-opinions.orgs, have-your-say.coms, and, the world has become a fame-generating, web-based business, and what’s more, everyone is hankering for a piece of the opinion pie.


Trent Burton’s, Rob Is…or, unravels the problem of trying to find a voice in a technological age that is contaminated with voices, all trying to shout longer and louder than the rest. It’s a pertinent message, if a little well worn, and that’s the problem here. Though certainly entertaining, one can’t help but feel that this sitcom-style three hander is treading over all too familiar ground. Like Rob’s endless ranting, it’s not saying anything new, it’s just saying it louder.


Rob (a devilishly attractive Matthew Wade) is your quintessential everyman, a 32 year old in advertising, stuck in a rut. He’s in love with his sharp-tongued, strong-willed flatmate Beth (Rayyah McCaul), is bored of his job and is more than a little frustrated with the world- hence the ranting. With some encouragement he decides to channel his discontentment into a controversial blog, which swiftly gathers a following (over 1,000 hits in 24 hours no less) and secures him a slot on prime time TV. Wanting to preserve his anonymity, however, he hires an over-zealous Liverpudlian actor (David Swain) to play him, but it doesn’t exactly go to plan…Suffice to say, he ends up back where he started, without the fame, without the girl, and still with the chip on the shoulder.


This is an elongated BBC situational comedy, a staged version of Not Going Out, or a Fawlty Towers…but with computers. Facing the homely sitting room set – complete with Friends coffee house sofa- you feel as though you are a live studio audience- I half expected a few cameramen to roll into view. And that’s the clever part. It’s a play that both considers and enacts the mergence of the private and public persona- ‘real’ life, and life as filtered through the media.


This is a strong ensemble, with a natural rapport and a sound sense of comic timing, helped along by Burton’s quick-fire, wordy dialogue, that only occasionally gets the better of them. There are some highly quotable gems here- “It doesn’t matter how carefully you uncork the bottle, if the grapes are from California, it will taste shit”, being one of my favourites. The only problem is that with the emphasis so often on the punch- line, the characters are in danger of becoming a tad two-dimensional. McCaul’s Beth shows all of two emotions. She is so persistently acerbic and bad-tempered, that it leaves you wondering why on earth Rob would ever have fallen for her in the first place.


Still there’s a lot to commend here. The acting is sure, the lighting (Tiffany Hudson) well crafted, and the dialogue as taut as you like. It’s a sound production that packs in a few laughs whilst entertaining a philosophical thread that gives us something to contemplate. In the end however, it’s still just a cosy comedy at heart; perfectly enjoyable but not in the least remarkable.