As reviewers for Everything Theatre, some of us take the “everything” more literally than others, and I interpret this to include embracing the pub below the theatre that is the Drayton Arms. What a wonderful pub it is! If you have time and budget for a dinner before the show, you won’t be disappointed. The broccoli and chickpea salad is divine. But back to the real reason for my visit, the show!
Love’s a Beach is fresh from a successful run at the VAULT Festival, and pitches itself as an “ancient satire with a modern setting”. The modern setting turns out to be the home of L*ve Isl*nd’s first gay couple, as they navigate the celebrity endorsements and sponsorship deals that follow their sudden fame. Cyrus (James Akka) is obsessed with his need to hit one million followers, whilst Ben (Iain Ferrier) seems less keen on the elusive numbers game of the influencer. This is challenged when they’re offered an amazing sponsorship deal. But the catch is it’s in Dubai: not exactly a safe space for this couple.
Akka and Ferrier are instantly likeable, and very believable as a couple. Akka plays the role of Cyrus with comical petulance and arrogance, traits that emerge during the show, but he somehow manages to stay ultimately likeable despite his naivety. Meanwhile, Ferrier as Ben, with his dog food ads and clear passion for the environment (or more specifically, the beavers), is the more-lovable character. A number of comedic highlights come as they try to engage their followers or film sponsored posts. The first moments of the show are some of the funniest; “Live, Laugh, Leak” as the slogan for an adult nappy brand causes laughter to echo around the space.
It’s a show filled with giggles and titters, and even occasional guffaws, yet despite the obvious satirical nature of the play there are some more uncomfortable moments. The trivial way that women’s rights are glossed over is jarring, and whilst Cyrus may find it boring, it doesn’t sit well with the audience to have this repeatedly poked fun at. Also, his total denial of the fact he could be executed for being gay in Dubai feels unrealistic. Considering his naivety, surely being told this by the one he loves should prompt some kind of response. But perhaps this is the point: he’s so obsessed with his follower count, it doesn’t matter.
The way that the direction depicts the social media and phone centric lifestyle is clever, with Cyrus speaking to the audience as though we are viewers of his Instagram live, or Ben’s clear frustration in text conversations that are narrated to us as they are typed. Sound effects during scene changes are used to give context to Ben and Cyrus’ fame, with social media comments or gossip columns sharing the latest scoop on one of the hottest reality TV couples being read out.
This is a show that pokes fun at the influencer lifestyle and shows what can happen when you choose fame over family and friends. However, the repercussions for Cyrus and Ben ultimately seem tame, and with its political undertones treated so flippantly you’re left wanting more from the play. Having said this, it is a funny show, with a layer of satire that is delicious at times, and it was clear that the audience enjoyed the sprinkling of jokes throughout.
Written by Will Johnston and Katie Sayer
Directed by Phoebe Barrett
Technical direction by Sam Frakes
Love’s A Beach plays at Drayton Arms Theatre until 29 April. Further information and bookings can be found here.