Theatre503, London (****)
Stephen Laughton (ex-Royal Court Writers Group, Headlong emerging writers programme) and author of acclaimed Run at the Vaults Festival has pedigree and doesn’t disappoint with his latest, Screens aptly turning up at Theatre503 just as who we are, and what we are bears down heavily on the national psyche.
Given that GB has always been a mongrel nation, the obsession with immigration and national identity, in many ways, is laughable. But in Laughton’s Screens, it’s no laughing matter. His small Cypriot family is undergoing trauma. A dead cat in the road brings memories flooding back to mum (nice performance from Fisun Burgess, battling with suppressed feelings of another life long ago in another country).
Coincidentally – and if there’s a fly in Laughton’s ointment it is that incidents driving the narrative are just too schematic – tests suddenly surface showing that her Cypriot Turkish heritage isn’t quite as she’s said it’s been all these years, and as understood by her gay son, Al and her bright but disturbed daughter, Ayse.
Cue family melt-down as the information communicated via mobile – there’s a lot of social media action going on in Cressida Brown’s smartly paced production – sets off recriminations and unforeseen consequences, especially in Ayse.
Laughton’s dialogue is funny and peppered with contemporary nuance whilst Brown makes clever use of juxtaposition between characters’ on stage reaction and what’s going on online. There’s a terrific exchange too between Al and Ben, a date from the gay Grindr website about the tricky issue of cultural identity (Ben Jewish, Al Turkish identified) that succeeds in digging deeper than usual into the emotional complexity of bi-cultural inheritances.
Al, as played by Declan Perring (a bit of an Andy Murray lookalike) is a lovely portrait of diffidence and yearning to escape familial baggage. But Laughton’s greatest achievement may be in his creation of Ayse – a difficult, estranged but not untypical product of cultural confusion whose filial anger against her mother’s `betrayal’ leads (too conveniently) to violent catharsis.
Flawed but Laughton’s writing and director Brown who produced the politically charged Walking the Tightrope programme for Theatre Uncut after the terrible Charlie Hebdo tragedy deserve to be seen much more. An important milestone.
Screens runs at Theatre503, London to Sept 3, 2016
Review first published in Reviewsgate, Aug 2016
A new play by Stephen Laughton
Al: Declan Perring
Ayse: Nadia Hynes
Emine: Fisun Burgess
Ben: Paul Bloomfield
Charlie: George Jovanovic
Director: Cressida Brown
Lighting & Projection Design: Richard Williamson
Associate Lighting & Projection Design: Dan English
Sound Design: James Frewer & Jon McLeod
Design Consultant: Georgia Lowe
Fight Direction: Jemma Angell & Augusta Wood
Producer: Paul Bloomfield