We’re all familiar with plastic folding chairs; the kind you’ve sat uncomfortably on while watching a graduation; shifted awkwardly in during a meeting; or maybe attempted to shrink into during an interview (before realizing that the brittle plastic offers nowhere to hide). They elicit feelings of discomfort in even the most chilled out among us. As you enter the Pleasance’s intimate Downstairs venue, it’s clear the Scatterjam team have used that entirely to their advantage. With seven plastic chairs making up the set, Alex (Roísín Bevan) has nowhere to hide.
But she doesn’t need to hide. Nor, it seems, does she want to.
As Bevan launches headfirst into Rachel Causer’s well-crafted script, it quickly becomes clear that social media guru Alex will say or do just about anything to keep the ‘likes’ coming in online. That is, until her father dies and she reluctantly attends a bereavement group. Coupled with a pretty big lie, this introduces her to the idea that the internet isn’t the only place she can control how others perceive her. Soon she has self-prescribed lying to boost her mood. She’s attending up to three support groups daily and at each one she’s a different person with a different, generally disturbing, story. Fortunately, no one seems any the wiser…except maybe Tristan, who notices there’s something amiss about the girl who claims to have lost her father in a, let’s face it, very unlikely way.
The way Causer’s script fearlessly approaches and challenges our perception of identity is to be applauded. For sixty funny, uncomfortable, untruthful minutes Bevan darts across the stage, switching seamlessly between characters, spinning lie after lie until, in a rather meta way, her captive audience is left questioning whether they’ve ever genuinely seen the real Alex, or if seeing who she really is even matters.
Director Liam Blain skillfully paces this solo performance and the play moves wonderfully quickly. Each rapid transition is expertly aided by Archie Macleod’s smooth, subtle lighting design, while three phone calls spread throughout the play serve as the only interruptions to Alex’s frantic story. They provide moments of beautiful interplay between Causer’s writing, Bevan’s performance, Blain’s direction, and the design by Macleod (lighting) and Raffaela Pancucci (sound), while granting the audience a brief glimpse into the shadows of Alex’s mind.
Whilst the play’s beginning feels occasionally over-acted, and thus less believable, as the story unfolds this seems more like a stylistic choice. After all, for Alex, a woman who believes “truth isn’t valuable, appearance is everything”, to be found trying a little too hard to make her many lies believable is, well, believable!
I may not have skipped joyfully home after this one, but as I left I felt an odd sense of calm; the kind you feel when someone has called you out on something that you’d sort of been wanting to be called out on. I wondered what my life looked like on social media and if that honestly mattered to me. After all, as we learn here, sometimes the truth can just feel too hard to face.
Please, Feel Free to Share weaves together beautifully to bring its audience tantalizingly close to understanding an individual who refuses to be seen for who she truly is. With an intensity that draws you in and, at times, cuts you to the core, it comments bluntly on society’s unnerving addiction to being ‘liked’ and challenges us to confront how important we believe the truth to be. It’s a small show with a big voice, and if Scatterjam keep producing work like this, it’ll soon be far more expensive to see: catch it while you can.
Written by Rachel Causer
Directed by Liam Blain
Produced by Robyn Bennett
Dramaturgy by Cressida Peever
Lighting Design by Archie Macleod
Sound Design by Raffaela Pancucci
Please, Feel Free to Share plays at Pleasance Theatre until 21 October. Further information and bookings can be found here.