Pros: A fun and energetic performance with some fantastic character comedy.
Cons: I wanted more; the show felt like just the first episode of a sitcom.
The tagline for The Social Notwork is ‘Mums, bums and social media’. Reading this in the programme gave me a twinge of reservation, and made me feel that this show wasn’t going to be for me at all. Thankfully I was dead wrong! Although the tagline does give a very snappy and valid description, the show is so much more than this. There was plenty to engage me in a story that’s in essence about friendship in the face of struggle.
Karen (Ruth Keeling), Marie (Abigail Halley) and Mel (Shereen Roushbaiani) have all lost their jobs at a tyre sales company after many years of work. Now they’re faced with a hellacious job market, soaring food prices and mounting bills, and the ever reducing buffer of their redundancy pay out. Depressed and sick of the futile process of sending CVs into the void, they look for any other ways to fill the coffers and save themselves and their families from the bailiffs. Through funerals, health spas, entrepreneur seminars and the branch of a tree their burgeoning ideas slowly become a reality.
The first thing I noticed about the three main actors was how natural the chemistry between them is. They actually look like they are having fun, which is great to see. The subtleties of their interactions are great. This is down to how well rounded the characters are, thanks to both writing and direction, and this is what really drives the show. I liked the way the comedy flows: there are no contrived jokes or one-liners, and it all proceeds as if spontaneous from the relationship between the friends. There is something in there for everyone, including some physical comedy that works well and doesn’t overstep the bounds into ridiculousness.
The Lion and Unicorn Theatre is a dark, cavernous space above a pub and there is not much to work with in terms of staging. Yet I did feel that more could have been done: a lot of the show is carried out on chairs set in the centre of the space, and that change position slightly with the different scenes. It seems strange that so much of the show is concentrated in one place, while the rest of the space isn’t taken advantage of. The set itself is appropriate and functional, if a bit unimaginative and lacking in style. However, there’s some great use of music to keep the atmosphere during scene changes.
The Social Notwork shows some great promise and there is plenty more mileage in these very dynamic characters. Things really kick into a higher gear when they are joined onstage by a male character who plays a great foil to the ladies’ apoplexies and procrastinations. But in the end I just wanted more, I wanted some emotional depth to punctuate the laughs. After all, these are hard times for the characters. Their passions are often so loud and riotous that a few quiet, introspective moments would have really made a difference.
Writer: Sharon Tracey Wright
Director: Adam Wollerton
Producer: Narky Knickers Theatre
Booking Link: http://www.lionandunicorntheatre.co.uk/the-social-notwork/#1454629649147-6b256633-4b60
Booking Until: 30 April 2016