Pros: A topical, humourous and honest piece about our inability to connect offline.
Cons: There are opportunities for improvement in the writing and staging.
Admittedly, the Tea House Theatre is not my favourite theatre to walk to alone at night. I made the mistake of taking the route past Vauxhall City Farm, which I’m sure is lovely in the daytime but is actually terrifying at night. However, once I arrived, I was met with a warm, bright and cozy café.
What Is Future I? is a show about reliance on cyber-reality, and what happens when you are forced to switch off and enjoy actual reality. In other words, definitely appropriate for the switched-on iPhone generation. The stage is simply the centre of the café: four tables with in the background a chalkboard advertising ‘free Wi-Fi and coffee’. I felt a twinge of discomfort as my initial instinct was to ask for the Wi-Fi password, but wary of writing myself into the moral of the story, I settled for some of the best cake I’ve had in my life.
The show follows four semi-strangers, two of which have unknowingly interacted before, as they let the audience see into their digital lives. Each represents a different stereotype; some are likeable, for example Liam Fleming as ‘The X’, while others are downright unpleasant. I wasn’t overly thrilled that both women, who are attractive and confident, are also ‘blessed’ with unpleasant personalities; in the real world, there are options beyond attractive or good. Nevertheless, the characters each bring something different to the tables on the stage.
After thorough introductions to the four web-surfers, suddenly the coffee shop runs out of coffee, followed by the Wi-Fi breaking down. We move into a humourous storyline as the strangers are forced to interact with each other and are pushed to their breaking points by their lack of ability to connect to people in the offline world.
It certainly is an amusing play. The scene after the Wi-Fi has failed is genuinely funny and the ‘special delivery’ to the coffee shop is equally amusing and sweet – particularly made so by disheartened barista Rebecca Felgate’s reaction to it. The format is interesting, but the lines between the characters don’t cross as much as they perhaps could. There are specific things that tie Jamie to The X, and The X to Dana, but the abrasive high-flying female executive Rocco seems to lack that connection to her fellow ‘strangers’. I also wasn’t convinced by some of the plotlines. The moment when Dana cruelly challenges the others to an online-dating showdown comes out of nowhere and just seems strange, even if it does set up Shona Davis’s Jamie for an endearing act of bravery later on. There are a few blemishes on the production side of things as well: towards the ending the staging makes it difficult to hear and though the music is really lovely, it does drown out the actors from time to time.
What Is Future I? is built around an interesting concept, and although the characters are fairly stereotypical, the actors all deliver and put on a neat show. The outcome is a likeable and lively show, and I didn’t even miss having Wi-Fi for the duration of the performance! Result!
Author: Emma Minihan
Director: Emma Minihan and Charlie Limm
Producer: Pen & Rose Productions
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.