Phillipa and Will Are Now in a Relationship

'I wuv you with the intensity of a thousand suns,' yells Will (Jack Swain) in Misshapen Theatre's Phillipa And Will Are Now In A Relationship, a romantic comedy told entirely through the back and forth of a Facebook Wall-to-Wall. It's a touchstone quote for the play itself, and for what it says in a wider sense about modern communications technology: the blend of eloquence and baby-talk, linguistic exuberance and heart-shrivelling banality is almost too close to life for comfort. I laughed as I winced as I cringed.This sense of an unsolicited insight into the lives of others is where Jonathan Brittain's script pushes all the right buttons. Anyone who has ever visited lamebook.com will be familiar with the pitfalls of a love-life lived in public - details of hook-ups, affairs and pregnancies are laid gruesomely open as privacy leaps out of the multi-tabbed window. It's also where the play missteps – some of the comment threads the actors deliver, albeit with near-perfect comic timing, are so hand-wringingly personal that it's unbelievable anyone under the age of thirty would lack the acumen to write them as a private message. I wished the company had had the bravery to do one of two things: either break the unity of this neatly-structured story to show texts, private messages and emails, exploring the other methods by which a modern relationship conducts itself behind closed doors; or to focus on the wholly public, to leave some sources of tension unsaid, self-censored, only occasionally surfacing when the demands of emotion override the confines of the medium. A greater challenge, but one that I feel might have delivered a bigger, more nuanced reward.The actors are up to it. Alice White as Phillipa is mortifyingly brash and clingy, but still draws sympathy in a highly affecting and minimal coda which speaks to every internet user in the room. They deserve especial credit for today's performance, in which a clearly integral projection screen broke down and they were left to convey an entire world of multimedia, an image-driven culture, with their performances alone. The visual element would undoubtedly have added something, but it was impressive to see how competently they could work without it. We all know people like this: couples who shirk their social obligations and retreat into a private world of nauseating self-reference. The best social commentary in Brittain's play is this: these days, everyone else gets to see it, whether they want to or not. This is a hugely likeable piece of comic theatre, in and about a world where the word 'Like' is in danger of losing its meaning altogether. You might like it. You might even Like it.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

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The Blurb

Poke! Meet Phillipa and Will: an oversexed, over-sharing Romeo and Juliet for the Internet age. A filthy, funny, bittersweet romance, told entirely through a Facebook wall-to-wall. 'Wonderful' (Fringereview.co.uk).

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