Writer: Sharon Tracey Wright
Director: Adam Wollerton
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
If David Croft and Jimmy Perry were still writing sitcoms then it might look something like The Social Notwork currently showing at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town. Actually written by Sharon Tracey Wright this 75-minute piece owes a huge debt to the everyday humour and occasionally outlandish plot devices that peppered the work of Croft and Perry in the 70s and 80s, which puts the warmth of its characters centre stage.
Made redundant after 12 years at a tyre manufacturer, Karen, Marie and Mel cannot get so much as an interview. Having only one income per household their financial futures are in doubt, but a conversation at a colleague’s funeral leads to a hare-brained business plan to create their own Youtube channel and cash-in on the advertising. But as a dodgy entrepreneurs’ workshop and a flock of geese threaten to derail their scheme, can three middle-aged women really make it big on the Internet?
Wright’s production has a sitcom-like feel from the start as the characters find themselves in a series of bizarre situations. From the appropriateness of Tweeting at a funeral – “Why put your phone down just because you’re dead” – to a hilariously painful scene in which the ladies go to a low-rent spa and suffer the consequences – “one whiff of potpourri and it’ll be nasty flashbacks” – these three women are easy to like and feel almost recognisable. By the time they derail Ken’s ‘Wonder Woman’ workshop with their cynical backchat and ever-ready anecdotes, the audience is already quite invested in their lives.
Yet the second half of the play doesn’t feel quite as well developed, so as the group finally pursue their You’ve Been Framed style Youtube channel (and it takes some time to get there) the plot begins to feel a little thin relying less on the interaction between the characters and more on daft scenarios to propel the story, a little more pathos and struggle would add depth. Although this is the lightest of comedy the final outcome also feels a little too easy, as genuine social media success can take years, but Wright’s characters feel as though they belong in a long-running series and the somewhat sudden ending perhaps isn’t the end of their story.
The four performers work together welland have created a believable friendship group despite their differing personalities. Ruth Keeling as former-Marketing expert Karen is the cynical driving force of the group, always ready with a sharp retort but her growing enthusiasm is easy to invest in. Abigail Halley’s fretful Marie is a nice counterpoint to the exuberance of the others, with a much put-upon persona that is subtly played. Mel is the most over-the-top member of the group and while Shereen Roushbaiani’s performance might come down a notch, she has great comic timing. Finally, Malcolm Jeffries almost steals the show with his single scene as Ken the camera-loving motivational speaker whose smiley veneer cracks under pressure.
The Social Notwork is a warm and enjoyable story of three women on a mission to succeed in a modern world. While the plot resolution could yield more character-based humour and perhaps reach its end a tad more quickly, Wright has potentially created her own returnable characters. As the actors roll out the Croft and Perry-esque ‘You have been watching’ banner, you want to tune in next week to find out what happens next.
Runs until 30 April 2016 | Image: Contributed