Friday, 19 August 2016

Review Bitches


Bitches
by Bola Agbaje

Meme Girls
http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Back in the day Charles Dickens and James Joyce were much exercised by their work being reprinted in USA territories without their permission - and, more importantly, without royalties paid. Of course they did receive credit for their work (otherwise it probably wouldn't have sold), but what the hell would they have made of the internet?

Here at TLT Towers, we thank heaven, we are a major pretend multinational corporation with insurance for such matters and packs of rottweiler lawyers to reduce any copyright infringer to a quivering, impecunious pulp.

But having seen Bola Agbaje's Bitches now at the Finborough Theatre, we are wondering whether we can dispense with our premiums and simply reach for our phone's video function.

We are invited into the bedroom of "Sons of Bitches", screen names Funke (Tara Tijani) and Cleo (Kat Humphrey) teenage vlogger - a blogger who records his or her blog on video - wannabes about to sit their "A" levels.

They quickly tidy up and make the bed when there is a vlog be recorded, slipping in and out of their personas,as they switch the camera off and on and react, and are defined, by their web followers.

It's an ambitious play tackling some knotty issues - Funke is black, a city girl with a Nigerian mother while Cleo is white and apparently from a rural community.

Directed by Valentina Veschi, the pacing sometimes feels a little awry and forced. Nonetheless the two young actors master a deluge of words and debates within a bright Pokemon pink strung with fairy lights bedroom encased in a four poster bed shape, designed by Emma Bailey.

Funke is the dominant partner financially and in personality, making TLT wonder whether there is some influence of Claude Chabrol's Les Biches. Continually looking at themselves in the mirror or on screen the pair seemed trapped in a bedroom loop.

However, even when it feels like neural feedback, the sound effects (sound: Will Alder) give a clue that there ia a history going on, starting with the sound of a dial up connection.

Within an ersatz rapp/hip hop framework, the playwright Agbaje covers a lot of ground.

The way women are portrayed and portray themselves, with online provocation and offence. The power of the internet to create villains with posts passed on unthinkingly and no demand for evidence. This is all covered.

Also how video and the internet impact on questions of and real life incidents concerning race. The girls are professional enough to have a script but, although it is unspoken, don't seem to have any form of sponsorshiip - if this isn't all a fantasy life..

Mixing rap culture with trolling and the copycat and reproductive nature of social media, the audience, as in The Fall, surrounds the bed set on three sides. The play appears to try and  work on juxtaposition with Funke especially giving glimpses the girls are possibly posher than their street cred personas

It's a sometimes interesting but not totally successful attempt to bring to the stage the pulsing, febrile nature of social media with its mix of emotional and commerical.

Like Darknet, it starts from an interesting premise. But it's a play which feels as if it knew its ending before the main part was written and this seems to skew a thought-through exploration, mere references substituting for insight.

 In other words, it suffers from some of the same problems as aspects of the internet it seeks to critique. So for a play that feels as if it needs more  work, an assed out amber light. 
 


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