A startling and original portrayal of the fallibility of relationships in a technological age, Brewers Fayre demonstrates how theatre can be used to critique contemporary societal issues to great effect. The play itself – by Scottish playwright David Greig – follows Elaine (Sandie Armstrong), a woman disenchanted by her relationship with her agoraphobic husband, Ian (Dodger Phillips). Elaine therefore turns to the faceless entity of the internet in order to seek romantic attention, but is soon caught by her daughter, Christine (Tegen Hitchens), in a heart-wrenching climax wherein the play loops full circle; the audience is readily reminded of the tenuousness of intimacy in a society wherein people refuse to communicate.
The acting was notably excellent all round, with special mention going to Tegen Hitchens for her portrayal of Christine, the daughter.
For the majority of the play, the audience themselves were playing the part of Elaine by reading her lines off the projector on the back wall – the ‘fourth wall’ was interestingly behind us, as opposed to the more traditional idea of being broken. This concept worked well, not just in comedic terms – 50 people in a room sharing lines is always going to sound ridiculously monotonous – but in the context of the subject matter; it added to the alienating, faceless (face-full?) quality of cyberspace and of relationships formed through that sphere. This atmosphere was intensified by the whiteness of the room, creating a clinical theatrical space. This sterility mirrored the sterility of anonymous communication – as in contemporary society with apps such as ‘Tinder’, you are expected to engage with people with only a screen as a reference point.
The acting was notably excellent all round, with special mention going to Tegen Hitchens for her portrayal of Christine, the daughter. Christine is a complex role, opening and closing the show in a state of turmoil, torn between her love for her family unit and her anger at her mother’s infidelity. Dodger Phillips was also thoroughly charming as Ian, the agoraphobic who spends the majority of his time researching apocalyptic theories on the internet, slipping in and out of his earnest vulnerability with ease while multi-role-playing.
My theatre-loving companion applauded the inventive use of the projector, effectively distancing the audience from the characters and showing them as profiles in a cyberworld. I was not as fond of the occasional ensemble sections and the synchronised speaking; I understand this may have been an intentional satire on the homogenisation of advertising, however I personally found it clumsy, ill-fitting and slightly clichéd.
Brewers Fayre was a beautifully acted piece of theatre, utilising technology itself – in the form of the projector – to effectively attack a society which places gilded online profiles above the relationships we maintain in real life. The subtle poignancy that emanates from the ending is enough to leave a bittersweet feeling, as we realise that we have seen the exact scene before at the start of the show and this loop will keep on running – almost as though the story itself is recorded in cyberspace.