Theatre503, London (****)
If anyone thinks growing up a young woman in Britain in the 21st century is a breeze, you’ve only to go a couple of times to Theatre503 to be bitterly disillusioned. In the last couple of years, Theatre503 have premiered a trio of plays (and counting) by young women playwrights who are taking a devastating microscope to the lives and pressures to which young women are now subject.
Last year, the bursting-with-talent actor-playwright Milly Thomas gave us a lacerating take on ambition, posh middle-class girls and the expectations made on them in the distinctly troubling A First World Problem.
Following on from that, Clickbait, her second production with director Holly Race Roughan is no less scintillating if twice as disturbing and depressing.
Thomas is not afraid – like Mark Ravenhill – to tell it how it is, to reflect back the no-holds-barred female bombast lurking in 21st century womanhood. Anything is possible because – anything is possible.
This time, sex is the starting – and end – point, porn controlled by women, produced by women for men and woman in private video booths, films they can produce for themselves for their own leisure.
The trigger for this entrepreneurial flash of genius comes from Thomas’s anti-heroine, Nicola, filmed one night `servicing’ a group of men in an Ibiza night-club. Threatened by the club owner with online revelation, instead Nicola posts it herself, setting off a sequence of events that eventually spiral out of control and end in fraud and possibly ruin.
At a stroke, and casting an eye wide and ironic, Thomas, like another play, Wink, at the same theatre, shows how our computer/social media/digitalised age is spawning consequences which are swift, brutal and unforeseen.
An updated version of the `revenge’ tragedy, the devil lies in the small print concerning choice, distribution rights and border-line consent – the kind of every-day encounters we all have in other contexts but here writ large, sharp, funny and ugly.
Once again Race Roughan produces a production to match Thomas’s caustic world view – a reframing of `family values’ and `girls doing it for themselves’. And, apart from a certain gabbling of dialogue, the cast flesh out Thomas’s characters with unnerving conviction and honesty.
A bumpy but hugely important ride.
Clickbait runs at Theatre503 to Feb 13, 2016
Review first published on Reviewsgate, Jan 2016 and slightly amended here.
By Milly Thomas
Nicola: Georgia Groome
Gina: Amy Dunne
Chloe: Alice Hewkin
Adam/Promoter: Barney White
Kat: Emma D’Arcy
Director: Holly Race Roughan
Designer: Frankie Bradshaw
Lighting Designer: Matthew Swithinbank
Sound Designer: Max Perryment
Movement Director: Katie Payne
Clickbait was developed and produced by Fools & Kings, D.E.M Productions and Theatre503. World premiere at Theatre 503, Jan 19, 2016.