Theatre503, London (****)

© Oliver King

© Oliver King

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.

© Oliver King

© Oliver King

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.

© Oliver King

© Oliver King

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.