Writer: Tom Stocks
Director: Luke Adamson
Ben is a young chef in a gastropub who has lots of issues to contend with. His mother, from
whom he has been estranged for 11 years, has returned having finally left Ben’s abusive
stepfather. His Tinder dates keep cancelling at the last minute, while the childhood friend he has
loved for years seems to prefer his partying, drugged up sous chef.
Writer Tom Stocks, who also plays Ben, hampers himself from the off by giving Ben an inner
monologue which plays in on a pre-recorded tape. It’s a distinctly untheatrical device, one which
denies the onstage actor from fully expressing themselves. It also risks revealing too much
about the character’s inner thoughts, telling rather than showing us the turmoil going on in Ben’s
What Stocks appears to be aiming at is to show us the damage that our inner monologue can
commit when it runs counter to real world stimuli. Ben has a tendency to overthink, to
antagonise himself into allowing his insecurities to blossom into flashes of temper which arethen inflicted upon himself and those around him.
Around him, Emily Ellis’s Sophie – the childhood friend who, after accepting Ben’s offer to
“Netflix and chill”, embarks upon a sweet and often comedic attempt to turn the couple’s
friendship into a more romantic and sexual relationship – provides an effective foil. Indeed, the
scenes where Stocks and Ellis are together are the strongest in the whole piece.
Elsewhere, Charlotte Price has a sweet, if underwritten, role as a café waitress whose chilled
attitude is in contrast to the turmoil elsewhere in Ben’s life.
Less effective is the relationship between Ben and his mother (Julie Binysh), which opens the
play as a checklist of expositionary backstory elements and never progresses to anything
approaching believability. Similarly, Joseph Lindoe’s party boy Ryan, while offering an extrovert
contrast to Ben’s inward-looking nature, is too broadly drawn to truly feel genuine.
Netflix and Chill tries hard to mix light comedy with deep insights into male mental health. In a
world where all-male environments discourage acknowledgement of vulnerability, the toxic
build-up has repercussions: from Ben’s stepfather to him, and from Ben onwards. But whenever
Stocks’ dialogue moves anywhere close to his central themes the quality of his writing
diminishes, the believability of his characters ebbing away as the talking points are rammedhome.
Issues such as men’s mental health are important ones to tackle; but they are also tough topics
to tackle well on stage. While Stocks’ play should be applauded for trying, it too often feels as
if, like Ben, its tendency to overthink scuppers its own chances of success.
Continues until 29 February 2020