Writer and Director: Julian Felice
Lewis, the hapless protagonist of Julian Felice’s mischievous 60-minute comedy thriller, The Blue Whale, is a misogynistic loser. Desperate for a girlfriend he has taken to attending a book club because he thinks that is where the “nerdy girls” go. He never actually reads the books of course, just googles the plot for something to say. Worried his female targets might think he is gay he assures them he is a sportsman because, after all, “gays don’t play rugby”. Next on his list of hunting grounds is Orpington’s branch of Weight Watchers as the young women there “have low self-esteem” and consequently might fancy him. You get the picture.
Lewis’s best friend Karl (a likeable turn by Chris Ablitt), who is struggling to hide a torrid office romance from wife Niki, suggests he try the darker recesses of cyber dating. Dumb-as-a-fencepost Lewis soon hooks up with a mysterious online stranger named Tasha (a delectably malign Natalie Bonavia in full-on vamp mode). This turns out to be the first in a series of increasingly unwise decisions. Tasha beguiles Lewis into a game called The Blue Whale. Complete ten challenges and she will meet up with him. The loser will be the winner he has always wanted to be. What could go wrong? Sadly, an awful lot. Happenings quickly turn very dark indeed.
Sam Bush plays Lewis with such gullible, trusting charm that it is not to feel sorry for the young man as he spirals from weird selfies to public humiliation, to police arrest and worse. However brainlessly chauvinistic Lewis is, he is more of a victim than a manipulator, something which makes unfolding events increasingly painful to watch. Gibraltar-based writer Felice, presumably aware of the sheer improbability of some of the narrative, packs the show’s first half with knowing and deliciously cynical humour.
When questioned by Karl as to why he trusts as an unseen stranger in a cyber chat room Lewis replies “this is the internet, trust is assumed”, an answer so idiotic one just has to accept it at face value. The show’s bleaker second half has something serious to say about online gaslighting, emotional abuse and why so many people fall victim to internet scams. Tasha’s slow trickle of information and reward, just enough to keep her credulous prey hooked, has the ring of truth to it.
The Blue Whale’s grim ending is telegraphed well before the final scenes, but is satisfying, nevertheless.
Runs until 25 Feb 2023