BWW Review: TWITSTORM, Park Theatre
With Donald Trump's social media habits regularly causing a stir worldwide, it seems quite apt for the latest Park Theatre production to focus on this wide-ranging topic. Chris England's play Twitstorm revolves around popular TV host Guy Manton's spectacular fall from grace as a tweet from his official account causes widespread offence, and engulfs his entire life.
At the end of another series of Arguing The Toss, with an American series on the horizon, Guy Manton (Jason Merrells) is having a pretty good time of things. But then a man claiming to be Ike, an African child he and his wife sponsored a few years ago, appears on his doorstep and makes himself at home. Later, at an end of series party, Guy makes a poorly judged joke about Ike that he overhears - claiming to find it funny, he secretly tweets it from Guy's account and unleashes the 'twitstorm'.
There have always been celebrity scandals; incidents involving Twitter are only the latest in a long line of faux pas. However, it's about time a new work came along to look at this very modern phenomenon, and perhaps question whether these digital incidents are out of proportion, and how much effect they should have on our wider lives.
Whilst Twitstorm does bring these issues to light, it never really digs deep enough - everything feels quite safe. It's not until the end of the first act that the offending tweet is sent, and the later attempts to fix the situation all run out quite predictably. Guy's rant to the journalist does start to get into the heart of the matter but it's not allowed to develop much further from there. Then when we learn more about Ike later on it only serves to change the context of the play at quite a late stage, and leads to a frankly bizarre ending. Guy is written in such a way that you don't actually feel that sorry for him; he's unsupportive of his wife, wants to shaft his long-term colleague and might well be having affairs left, right and centre. In other words: someone due a taste of humble pie.
All set in Guy's front room, it does make interesting use of projections to show incoming and outgoing tweets - though some attention to detail with regard to the number of characters available (it constantly shows as 88 when Twitter has a 140-character limit), and ensuring all screens are large enough to be read. The radio announcements in the second act do well to cover up the scene transitions which could be tightened up in the first, as well as providing some big laughs from the headlines and song choices.
There are some incredibly funny moments - Justin Edwards as Neil (Guy's writer and official tweeter) panic-eating crisps as he tries to process what Ike has posted is a great example of physical comedy, and Edwards' face is very expressive.
But it's Tom Moutchi as Ike who really steals the show. Aside from the odd glimpse here and there, it does mostly look like his mistakes (from the tweet onwards) are innocent misunderstandings rather than all part of a bigger plan.
Overall it's not a bad night out, as the comedy comes through more often than not - but it does miss an opportunity to dig a bit deeper at the same time. There are some fine comic performances, and the laughs from those will ensure you have an enjoyable evening.
Picture credit: Darren Bell