One of the delights of reviewing is watching burgeoning talent. Playwright Phoebe Eclair-Powell (yes you’d be right in thinking there’s a thespian connection there) and Jamie Jackson are two names we’re going to hear a lot more from.
Interestingly whilst she shares a similar kind of writing chutzpah to her almost namesake Phoebe Waller Bridge (Fleabag), she’s also reflecting the increasing zeitgeist of our times.
This is the fourth play in as many months to explore the impact of the internet and social media on our world. The revival of Patrick Marber’s Closer is a reminder that dazzlingly he got in there first. But in more recent months we’ve had both The Nether and Teh Internet is Serious Business via the Royal Court asking awkward questions about whither humankind now that anything is possible.
Picking up, ironically, on Barack Obama’s `we can do’ election phraseology, Eclair-Powell turns it on its head to show the kind of mess into which individuals – especially the young – can now fall foul on the internet simply `because I can’.
That refrain bookends Wink, as the teenage hero-worshipping Mark (a stunningly accomplished performance from Sam Clemmett following on from a memorable cameo in Emlyn Williams’ Accolade last November) ends up swopping places with his masculine idol in the shape of school teacher, John.
To the hormone rampant, insecure Mark, John Martin appears to have it all: insouciance, swagger and not least a girl-friend, Claire. Into porn as well as running, paintballing, Instagram, and all the other latter-day paraphernalia of social media, Mark’s yearning to be other than he is takes on, inevitably, a new online form. Mr Martin, meanwhile, tortured by his failing relationship, turns himself into Claire.
Cue another exploration into online identity swapping and its implications. On the way, Eclair-Powell treats us to a roller-coaster of contemporary male angst, lubriciously funny and extraordinarily perceptive about the moments of isolation, tenderness, unhappiness and frustration of two male egos allowed to go too far because `they can’.
Beautifully played and sensitively directed by Jamie Jackson underlining the collisions of circumstance and ego between John and Mark, Wink bears all the hallmarks of a singular triumph not to say impressive debut.
First published in Reviewsgate, March 2015