After a bit of a slow start, it feels like theatre is starting to take notice of the Internet. Last year saw Privacy, The Nether, and teh [sic] internet is serious business in London. Now Sophie Sparkes has brought the craze to Oxford with an energetic piece of new writing full of neck-nominations, camera-phones and Facebook uploads. I Nominate shows how a chaotic, alcohol-fuelled night out has been warped by our online self-obsession.
We start with a sudden burst of energy and movement that makes use of the unusually spacious BT studio. But this promising note dissipates gradually through the play. The dingy flat of John (Will Spence) and Carolyn (Katie Piner) plays host to his reluctant neck-nomination, which escalates quickly into a reluctant night out. Sparkes’ dialogue is mostly tight and punchy, but chemistry is lacking on stage in these calmer moments. When we move to the club, a few more issues become clear – the cluttered kitchen table doubles up uncomfortably as a bar, and the lighting state could be much more imaginative. The movement around the central spotlight was awkward and didn’t feel very clubby. The main problem of this middle section was the music – some key dialogue was lost under The Prodigy, which although atmospheric, left me too confused as to who was who and where I was supposed to be.
Nonetheless, the choice of soundtrack was solid. The set and lighting, on the other hand, fail to impress, and the cast ironically never seem at home in their surroundings.
Spence was a consistent performer throughout, the strongest at keeping up his drunkenness, which sometimes fluctuated for other characters. Rebecca Watson’s neurotic Jodie was also clear (and quite a good dancer), Sparkes’ best mouthpiece for displaying our dangerous narcissistic obsession with social media. At times the script’s obvious jokes were overplayed and risked killing the comedy, and the cast seemed a little isolated, directing their angrier lines at no-one in particular. Hopefully, both these elements will be worked out as the run continues.
Ultimately, Sparkes’ play shows a discomfort with the unhealthy cocktail of alcohol and the Internet, but fails to make itself heard clearly. The unsettling nature of Jodie’s Facebook streams of consciousness are the show’s strong point, and they could have been brought out more to really make our skin crawl. Instead, the tension that surrounds the four characters seems a little aimless. Sparkes’ attention to detail is fantastic, and her dialogue never risks feeling flabby, but I Nominate lashes out too randomly to be truly satirical.
I Nominate is on at the BT Studio until Saturday 16th May, performing at 9.30pm.