18/10/2017 - 21/10/2017
6 teenagers. 1 chatroom. An internet of infinite possibilities. What would you choose to do? Who would you choose to be?
Five teenagers meet online, in a world that could be anything they want to make it. They talk about shitty children’s book authors, pop culture pressure and a teenage revolution. That is until Jim, a 15 year old with depression, stumbles into the room. In this tangled online web, with nowhere to go and nothing to lose, Jim puts his life into the hands of these five faceless strangers.
Chatroom has been a theatre favourite in the UK since its debut in 2005. Twelve years later, in an age of YouTube celebrities, tweeting Presidents, billions of Facebook users, and ongoing faceless interaction, the play’s themes of online identity, anonymity, power, greed, and online social status ring truer than ever.
THE DARKROOM, Palmerston North
Wednesday 18 – Saturday 21 October 2017
Dark Room Concession: $15.00
Dark Room Adult: $20.00
(all prices include GST)
*Group ticket pricing applies to groups of 6 tickets or more
* You may be asked for valid ID at the venue if you have booked senior (age 60+) student or under 30 concession seats
Nomuna Amarbat: Laura
Finn Davidson: Jim
Jeremy Hunt: Jack
Mycah Keall: Emily
Scott McCready: William
Rachel McLean: Eva
Lighting Design: Tyler White
Engaging and provocative
Review by Adam Dodd 20th Oct 2017
Since debuting in 2005, Chatroom – with its unsettling narrative and enduring relevance – has become a staple of UK youth theatre and classroom. It was there that director Jenna Kelly first discovered the play and began to consider how she might bring it to the stage.
I can understand the draw: the issues and events that play out in Chatroom bear a fraught familiarity. Exploring themes of human engagement, identity and purpose, Chatroom speaks intimately of adolescence in a modern world. I cannot help but dredge up recollections of sprawling hours sitting on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) as a teen.
I stare down that rabbit-hole with a mixture of feelings. I know what it is like to feel a sense of real engagement filtered through the gentle radiation of a CRT monitor, along with exposure to wanton abuse and adolescent attempts at manipulation.
Some of the references may be dated, but the subject matter of Chatroom is very real and personal; increasingly so. In a world rife with social media platforms, forums and boards – Kik, Snapchat, Slack, Discord, Facebook, Tinder, Reddit, Omegle and the myriad like – online engagement is now integral to the modern experience. And the stakes are higher: people aren’t just making mistakes on Livejournal anymore.
I cannot even grasp the edges of what a teen’s experience of the Internet is like today. The human aspect of those experiences however are another matter – and this is what Kelly explores. In so doing she prompts some necessary dialogue. The result brings together some familiar local talent and delivers at a level that might be expected of a more established company.
Set simply with six desks lining the stage, Chatroom utilises next to no movement. These desks are our windows into the characters’ lives, and because of this our attention is focused all the more on the emotional texturing that each actor brings to their performance. This is mostly very well developed and, though there are moments where the delivery becomes stilted, the pace and engagement is never significantly compromised. The material is challenging enough that I would be surprised if there weren’t such moments.
The actors are well cast. Jeremy Hunt is engaging, showing good depth as he embodies the emotional landscape of Jack. Rachel McLean demonstrates nuance and expressive command in the role of Eva but could savour the dialogue more. While greater care with diction is wanted, Scott McCready’s portrayal of William has all the making of a demagogue in waiting.
Finn Davidson (Jim) and Mycah Keall (Emily) both have an intensity and presence that makes for some heart-wrenching moments. Nomuna Amarbat plays Laura with an appropriately cultivated reserve and subtlety but as a consequence is harder to read emotionally. Each contributes significantly to the pathos and poignancy of Chatroom.
The polish they bring to the production can only improve, and so I urge you to head along and catch this engaging and provocative show while you can.
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