Tomorrow's Talent at the Cramphorn Theatre
Irish playwright Enda Walsh's one-acter puts teenage chatroom conversations under the spotlight. It starts innocently enough, feeling betrayed by Britney, brainwashed by children's books, Willy Wonka the worst.
But it soon takes a darker turn, as Jim [Sam Toland] reveals his moment of truth in a parish Passion Play. And is tempted by thoughts of suicide. This central role was played with depth and subtlety, especially in his Penguin Day soliloquy, and the final sequence when his life was saved by Laura15 and the redemptive power of Frankie Laine's Rawhide.
Jessica Moore was Laura, and Alex Houlton very believable as Jack, who was out of his depth as soon as the conversation moved away from Harry Potter; Emma Bennett's ingenuous Emily was similarly naive. The malevolent William, all innocence on the surface, was excellently done by Matthew Bonner, with Deanna Byron convincing as the other voice of depressive despair.
Director Gavin Wilkinson was asking a lot of his young actors. They sit alone in their adolescent bedrooms – facing front in cheap plastic chairs - there's no eye contact here. Online interactions, where words are power and rooms have rules, were never as vivid and personal as this, surely. “Chat”, in this context, is mainly abbreviated cliché, as stylised and shortened as a telegram or a small ad. Here we had the sentiments, but almost none of the style. I don't see that it could have worked any other way – there's not much drama in watching words scroll across a screen.
“If it wasn't such a depressing story it would be quite funny,” says one of these young citizens of cyberspace. Well, yes, and perhaps I found more to smile at than the teenagers who packed the Cramphorn.
Whatever the shortcomings of the piece, it was stunningly well done by the Tomorrow's Talent sextet [with a cowboy cameo from Mark Ellis at the end] – it was good to see these performers stretched by some real contemporary drama.