15th October 2016
‘Why would I cover my head? I’ve got really nice hair!’
Cressida Brown’s brutally, effective production of ‘Screens’ is skilfully directed with an outstanding cast.
The title seems to be an allusion to the running significance of mobile phones, but the title extends further than this to questions of partitioning, division and isolation in a national context. Hence, Laughton uses the Cyprus conflict as a backdrop to tackle a host of other stigma-infused topics: homophobia, discrimination, violence and loss of self, all of which funnel into our daily currency.
Within minutes of the play starting, we are immersed in how quickly technology transforms both our everyday behaviour and interpersonal relationships. In a deprived area of London, Declan Perring’s Al, a young gay man from a Turkish Cypriot family tries to juggle his family responsibilities whilst looking for decent men on Grindr. Meanwhile, his mother, Emine (Fisun Burgess), already upset by the discovery of a dead cat, receives an email that calls into question her identity and that of her children. Her daughter Ayşe (Nadia Hynes) splits her time between Instagram and casually ribalding her gay brother. Al and Ayşe’s sibling rivalry and power games are edgy throughout. Indeed, one of the main reasons Screens works so well is the interplay between the three family members.
You guessed – the overriding sense of rage is palpable in Cressida Brown’s fast-moving production, taking place on a bare set with only two chairs for props. The darkness of the colour palette contrasts with the wide white stripe that runs around the stage, on which Richard Williamson’s video design( which owes a nod to ‘The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time’)cleverly enables us to see what’s happening on Al, Ayse, Ben and Charlie’s phone screens.
The 70 minutes of witty, relevant theatre is injected with so many themes, it leaves the audience wanting more. Laughton’s sense of the contemporary includes references to Brexit and Pokémon Go, and his images, from the symbolic dead cat to the escalating numbers of retweets as one of the protagonists is accused of being a paedophile, generate a lot of energy, Nevertheless, ‘Screens’ is a timely reminder that our political, cultural and religious tolerances need to be reassessed, warning, too that our self-obsessive culture can have horrific repercussions.
As Laughton says, ‘When you’re neither one thing nor the other, you end up constantly questioning what you are.’