Screens at Theatre 503
Stephen Laughton’s intriguing play Screens, directed by Cressida Brown, involves a British/Turkish-Cypriot family embroiled in social media and identity issues, with buried memories of deep suffering. The storyline entails a series of discussions between mother and children, brother and sister, girl and boyfriend, and online gay chat participants on a first date about issues of origin, race, nationality and war.
Within a framework of perpetual social media obsession – the characters are always attached to their smart phones, which seem to provide a conduit for all interactions – are conversations about culturally relevant, contemporary topics. A subject rarely receiving focus, the conflict in Cyprus is a central theme in this piece, as are homosexuality, racism, Brexit, identity confusion and brutality. Questions surround one’s sense of self in being British versus Turkish, Greek and Jewish. “A man told me to go back to Syria,” the mother, Emine (Fisun Burgess), tells her offspring. “But you’re British, you’re Turkish!”.
On the back wall of the stage, a very humorous video (with graphic nudity) of internet activity is displayed as a rectangular strip, echoing the net’s narrowed focus. Interspersed with tongue-in-cheek voyeuristic shots of cyberspace interactions are dramatic and painful visions of battle, misery and videotaped home-grown violence, as if to contrast our escapism into social media with the harsher realities of war and suffering. Emine speaks of memories of a concentration camp: “…violence, starvation, the smell of death…I remember thinking if I ever have children, I will not let them go through this.”
Her daughter, the feisty Ayşe’s (Nadia Hynes) conversations with her gay brother Al (Declan Perring) are revealing, funny, or deeply serious. Although adamant that he is British, Al is also detached from any national distinction: “I don’t need to be any kind of label, not even British.” Attached to a multi-cultural identity, her family origins in question and upset she may not be Muslim – when asked by Al why she therefore doesn’t cover her head, her trivial response is “Why would I cover my head? I’ve got really nice hair.” – Ayse wonders if she will lose her complex sense of self: “I’m urban…secular, quick-witted, engaged…” Al’s confrontation regarding the Greek-Cypriot war with his potential lover Ben (Paul Bloomfield) is enlightening, but a seed of shocking ensuing random violence.
The actors are excellent, particularly Burgess as Emine and Hynes as Ayse. Brilliantly written, Screens is witty, relevant, moving theatre.
Screens is at Theatre 503 from 10th August until 3rd September 2016, for further information or to book visit here.