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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.


Playfight
Finborough Theatre  April 2021

This first play by Julia Grogan traces the friendship of three young women from mid-teens to mid-twenties. And now that I've told you that you might not be able to predict every single plot turn, but very little in it will surprise you.

While playwright, director Blanche McIntyre and actors Robyn Cara, Hannah Millward and Helen Monks work hard to individualise the characters and make their story come alive, too little moves beyond the level of the generic.

As teens the girls gossip, fret over their place in the school pecking order, and take turns concluding that they're sluts, frigid or lesbians. As time passes two do well on exams and begin to think about university while the other slips into online sex work.

One gets accepted to uni, one gets married, one dies, one announces that she has been in love with one of the others all along, one finds a modestly happy life.

The actors work hard to individualise and flesh out their characters, but even if you haven't seen or read very similar stories before, it feels like you have.

Actors and director are even less successful at creating a sense of a shared reality. The play is performed in Zoom format, with the actors separately playing to their computers and, apart from furtive glances at their scripts, they all face straight forward at the camera.

Even when the editing puts two or three windows side by side the women give little indication of relating to each other.

Miss a couple of early passing references and you might not realise that the entire play takes place in one setting, under a particular tree they consider their special place, and you could be excused for thinking we were eavesdropping on a string of online conversations.

Zoom theatre is a new and difficult medium to master, but we have seen it done better this year. Everyone involved in Playfight is talented, but the whole never really comes together.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Playfight - Finborough Theatre online 2021