Twitstorm at Park Theatre
Many believe that political correctness has turned communication into a minefield, making people so wary of expressing their views that the result is akin to censorship. Opinions can be magnified and scrutinised beyond control in the verbal battleground of social media, and this phenomenon is certainly worth addressing. Unfortunately, playwright Chris England and director Jonathan Lewis leave subtlety at the door when they treat the subject in Twitstorm as they allow personal views to take over, thus annulling any chance of real conflict.
The protagonist is the undiplomatic Guy Manton, a TV show host with thousands of followers who leads an idyllic life with his wife, a writer of romance books, and their child. An African refugee, Ike, turns up at the doorstep of the posh family home claiming to be one of the young people they once sponsored. The couple let him stay at their house for an indefinite amount of time without asking too many questions. One day Guy makes a distasteful joke about Ike, and the unfortunate remark finds its way on Twitter, causing hordes of offended fans to voice their disapproval. Guy’s career goes spiralling down as he wonders in disbelief how words spoken in jest could turn his life upside down.
The script is so focused on denouncing political correctness that it neglects the development of its characters, so while the cast does give decent performances, there is nothing outstanding about the production. The domestic setting (a kitchen and a sofa) is also uninspiring.
At times it seems that the play is intent on validating stereotypes rather than dispelling them. The only woman in the piece is shallow, gullible and sentimental; the refugee turns out to be a violent, opportunistic impostor; and a possibly gay character (a journalist conducting an exclusive interview with Guy, judging him all along) is a caricature of a social media star with a phoney morality. Meanwhile, the rich white man is the unjustly accused victim who is finally vindicated.
Considering that political correctness does have ethical value, only a witty, sophisticated approach could persuade an audience to rethink the widely accepted concept. Twitstorm is an over-simplistic story that is too heavily laden with resentment, and it is further weakened by implausible plot elements. Rather than a call for free expression or a prompt to ease the hypersensitivity of the “PC brigade”, it comes across as a bitter rant that hides (clumsily) behind the guise of drama.
Photo: Darren Bell
Twitstorm is at Park Theatre from 31st May until 1st July 2017, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Twitstorm here: