16 August 2016

Screens at Theatre503

I see just about everything at Theatre503 so it was an easy choice to go and see Screens. Once that decision was made I just had to choose the date and Tuesdays are good.

My new work location, Teddington, is not good for some theatres (e.g. Bush and Arcola) but it is fine for Theatre503 thanks to the regular trains to Clapham Junction.

It was easy enough to get there around 6:30pm and that meant plenty of time for a meal in The Latchmere beneath the theatre. Their vegetarian options were not that brilliant, as with too many gastro pubs, but I found something in the entree and the starters that I liked. They were actually very good and The Latchmere is one of the benefits of going to Theatre503.

Well fed, I claimed a second pint of Wainwrights and headed up the steep and narrow stairs to the theatre.

There was a reasonable crowd and it took my customary care to position myself close to the entrance to the theatre to be able to secure my usual seat in the middle of the front row. There in front of me was a simple square stage with two chairs and a dead cat, partially covered for decency. A promising start.

Screens took us into the world of a Turkish Cypriot immigrant family, the mother had moved here to escape the troubles there and had two now grown-up children. The young man, Al, was strongly aware of his heritage, he admitted to hating the Greeks for what they did, and was trying to come to terms with that. He was also trying to come to terms with being gay and was experimenting with Grindr.

The young woman, Ay┼če, was more interested in her personal life. This, and Al's forays into Grindr, were flashed on a banner across the top of the back wall. As the name suggests, Screens, was about how we use screens in our modern lives.

One use of the screens that I loved was when, on a date, the man Al was dating accused him of using Grindr while with him but Al showed him, and us, that he was actually playing PokemonGo and a few Pokeballs whizzed across the stage to make the point. It was good to see such a topical reference and the light touch that it brought.

Another topical item was less fun. Another theme of the play, the main one, was alienation and the Brexit vote had added to the general alienation towards the family, one of them had been accused in the street of being a Syrian and told to go home. That left an unpleasant taste in the mouth, a common feeling post Brexit.

There were a lot of other things going on which while sometimes feeling a little disjointed or unrelated, as if the playwright, Stephen Laughton, was trying to pack all of his ideas into one play, it also added to the richness of the experience and because they were good ideas could be forgiven for their unexpected appearances.

Also typical for Theatre503 was the quality of the acting. This was a story set in the real-world so everybody had to be believable and they were. It's often hard to separate character from actor and in giving a special mention to Al's date Ben, played by Paul Bloomfield, it is as much for the calm way that Ben asked about Al's heritage as for Paul's portrayal. I was especially pleased to be able to make this point with Paul afterwards and to have him agree with me.

Putting all that together and you got a typical Theatre503 play that was intelligent, provocative and entertaining.

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