Review: WINK, Theatre503 By Grace Watts on March 14, 2015

WINK at Theatre 503 is a superb production. Playwright Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s story depicts the lives of a young boy, Mark, and his older role model, Mr John Martin.

Mark believes John (his French teacher) has the perfect life, a judgement he makes purely on the deconstruction of John’s Facebook page and digital life. But Mark is so inspired by John he decides to become Tim Walker, a man who is an even better version of John and a man he one day dreams of becoming. Mark does this by simply and convincingly creating his new identity’s very own Facebook page, and to top it off he sends a friend request to John’s girlfriend, Claire. However, soon it’s all too apparent that everyone’s perfect digital lives couldn’t be further from the truth. In a world full of Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and free-flowing porn, the reality of these things can be more real than life. Eclair-Powell states the point that people “need an excuse not to look at my phone”. Furthermore, with people flicking through your Facebook page like it’s a “game of guess who” she shrewdly points out the extraordinary fact of how much of ourselves we put online and specifically the ‘#blessed’ best parts of ourselves. The dialogue is punchy and humorous and is complemented perfectly by the contemporary movement interweaved throughout the play. Moments of movement when Mark sculpts and investigates John are entrancing. Movement director Isla Jackson-Ritchie uses a repeated sequence of movements such as swiping the air, to demonstrate being surrounded by technology. This is very effective as you can imagine the webpages flying past the actors. The setting of WINK is minimalistic and impacting. The white walls and floor are cleverly lit in a way that you feel you are looking at a screen. It reminds you of how all-consuming technology is and how we are literally surrounded by this in our everyday lives. A particularly strong scene is when Mark and John have a Facebook message fight, using their emoticons and lack of kisses strategically as weapons. It is very funny, truthful and it feels like you are watching a Shakespearian battle but instead of ‘Do you bite your thumb at me?’ it is ‘winky face – no kiss’. Both actors are incredibly strong. Sam Clemmett who plays the teenage boy, Mark, is sincere and powerfully passionate. This works in ideal contrast to Leon Williams who is quick-witted and has wonderfully dry and brutal comic timing. WINK is refreshing because it doesn’t shy away from anything taboo; the dialogue is abrasive at points yet manages not to be grotesque. Directed by Jamie Jackson, the production is fast-paced, varied and clear. In our generation we speak to each other in emoticons and mainly behind a screen. WINK highlights the loneliness of this and how easy it is to create a life from nothing real. I would highly recommend watching WINK, it’s one of the best works that has come out of Theatre503. WINK is playing at Theatre503 until 4 April. For more information and tickets, see theTheatre503 website.