Harm at Bush Theatre
Harm, penned by Bruntwood Prize winner Phoebe Eclair-Powell, is an angsty and illuminating glimpse into the dangers of social media and the impact it can have on mental health. The production is framed around a lonely estate agent’s obsession with her influencer client Alice, and creates a space where the lines between public and private are blurred. She is simultaneously entranced and disgusted by Alice and the clear difference between her perfect online persona and the deeply flawed person in reality.
As the story progresses, the narrator, who remains nameless, sits on the edge of two worlds in which she has never felt comfortable: the world of social media, where her posts bring in a few likes at best, and the real world, where she spends most of her time at home alone. This displacement leads to a yearning both to be best friends with Alice and to destroy her. When an anonymous online forum gives her the chance to do just that, the story quickly takes a dark turn.
Directed by Atri Banerjee, the production serves as an effective warning to an audience that is becoming increasingly obsessed with follows, likes and comments, picking apart the concept of “influencer” with every twist and turn. In doing so, Harm also begins to explore concepts of mental health and obsession, creating a narrator who is concurrently loveable and terrifying.
The strength of the script is elevated by a truly stellar performance from Kelly Gough (Broadchurch, Marcella), who bares all on the stage, presenting a character who, while remaining anonymous, could not be more exposed and raw. The simplicity of the set design (a single chair and giant stuffed rabbit) only add to the sense of anonymity: this character could be anyone anywhere. She is every voice behind every trolling comment on anybody’s Instagram, every secret-spiller on hate-fuelled forums, every person Internet users are told to be wary of. But she’s also just the girl next door.
In short, Harm is not to be missed. It is a truly breathtaking production, combining social commentary with electric wit – a welcome foray into the theatre after a prolonged absence.
Photo: Isha Shah
Harm is at Bush Theatre from 24th May until 26th June 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.