Correspondence at the Old Red Lion TheatreCultureTheatre
Centred around an Xbox-obsessed 16-year-old living in London, Correspondence at the Old Red Lion Theatre creates an interesting dialogue between the youth of Britain and Syria in the light of the difficult political situation in 2012.
Ben (Joe Attewell) is a normal, although slightly introverted boy, who spends most of his spare time either working on the school newspaper or on Xbox Live. It is in a game that he meets the Syrian Jibreel (Ali Ariaie) and the two teenagers connect through their shared enjoyment of a war game. While Ben only has troubles like the royal wedding or Katy Perry, Jibreel is confronted with much more dire situations in his home town: activists are severely persecuted and disappear without a trace. Ben takes great interest in the cause and when his friend Jibreel does not respond to his calls, makes his way to Syria to see things for himself.
The play itself feels like a video game that has become real. The action switches between individual characters, whose appearances are accompanied by game sound effects, continually driving the plot further. Correspondence uses a sheltered teenage boy to cleverly express the contemporary trope of the Western people’s need to interfere in a way that clashes with the culture they want to help. While the play is interspersed with references to real events, it lacks credibility at points; characters conform too often to stereotypes, with the overprotective mother, the female school bully and the cool dad featuring, and this inevitably takes away some of the poignancy of the piece.
Nonetheless, Ben’s delusion and his strong urge to make a difference no matter what leads to a haunting portrayal of a modern teenager struggling to find the truth – and himself – in an uncertain world.
Photo: Richard Lakos
Correspondence is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 8th March until 2nd April 2016, for further information or to book visit here.