It’s all queasily familiar: a small badly lit room, a table littered with bottles of vodka and plastic cups, and several alarmingly costumed twenty-somethings sprawled over the floor and bed, arguing about a drinking game. This is the scene that the audience walk into at the beginning of Naomi Fawcett’s lively new play, the dialogue rambling on through the lights down, and it’s an effective opening, wasting no time in sketching out its characters. What ensues is a chaos of hand-flapping, shouting matches and pouting in the corner, as this group of friends – or enemies – fight over each other’s boyfriends and figure out how the hell you’re supposed to meet someone if everyone has Tinder. Its concern is with forming an identity against the backdrop of a digital onslaught, and how gender relations are being re-imagined on a modern stage.
The play was inspired by verbatim interviews, and there is much here that will probably strike home with quarter-lives in crisis
It’s a well-observed piece, and furiously contemporary, but not quite raucous or witty enough to compensate for an ultimately petty subject matter. On a cynical level it’s preoccupied with the whining naval-gazing of grown-up children, and never manages to make this feel hugely important. Further, the natural ease of the opening’s unconstrained dialogue is lost somewhat throughout the play as it gets on with Being Topical and Discussing Issues to the sacrifice of dialogue that feels unburdened. Extensive chats on male projections of femininity and the incomprehensibility of dick pics are placed as undigested chunks straight into the mouths of characters, none of whom seem drunk enough to make this kind of rambling realistic. The dialogue is at its best when it is inane, allowing the personality of the characters and relations between them to unspool.
Nevertheless, much of the enjoyment of the play comes from the cast’s commitment to their characters, which are well-drawn and sympathetic. The whole cast is excellent, and they manage to find a convincing group dynamic, although the men are hampered a little by characters that are largely used as sounding boards for the female characters’ rants on contemporary masculinity and their own anxious femininity.
One of the best scenes is a sweet and troubled dialogue between the acerbic Kate – pissed, eating Tangfastics – and the Icon of Masculinity, Will, after a night out. In response to Kate’s meditation on her relations with men, Will says, “Fuck, that got a little bit deep and meaningful”. It’s a punch-drunk reaction that the play seems to suffer from itself, finding its on-the-money topicality a bit overwhelming and struggling to really make sense of, or focus in on, any of the problems it explores. The play was inspired by verbatim interviews, and there is much here that will probably strike home with quarter-lives in crisis. However, it doesn’t quite dig deep enough, presenting issues without really complicating them or scraping under the skin.