Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jonathan Likes This -Review- Live Theatre

Jonathan Likes This. Live Theatre - Newcastle Upon Tyne

Writer: Lee Mattinson
Director: Paul James
Reviewer: Michael Hunter
[rating 4.5]

13 September 2011

When sixteen year old Jonathan Fudge dies, his friends flock to his Facebook page to make sense of the horrible mess. But when Jonathan starts to respond, they begin to wonder whether their friend has disappeared at all.

Back by popular demand (Jonathan Likes This had a great run in April 2010) the youth theatre members have worked and toiled their hearts out to promote Live Theatre's Education and Participation season of new and revisited work, this new season pool's in the unmistakable talent that the theatre has to offer. I was lucky to be invited along to the Launch at the beginning of the month and saw the cast interviewed on stage regarding what the play meant to them, with this being in the 'Digital Era' and learning from scratch to getting it on the stage. The actors were so proud of their achievements, and so appreciative of the magnificent help from those around them. 
So tonight was the accumulation of all of that put together, the hard work with all the elements in place.
Nine characters made up the tally on stage, one of them Heather (Meghan Doyle) played Jonathan's sister. She was the one that broadcast his death on Facebook to all of his friends, she then set up a memorial page in his honour. None of them could believe it, they thought she was messing around and having a laugh. His girlfriend Madeline (Emma Crowley Bennet) poured scorn upon him through the Wall of the page, citing that his death had ruined her life and what was she to do at the school Christmas prom without him. Her public enemy No 1 (Jonathan's ex) Lauren (Georgia Richardson) sent him a Personal Message and portrayed to us that she wished that he was back with her. 
Charlie (Patrick McNamee) Jonathan's best friend is bewildered and in a constant state of shock, he is struggling to come to terms with the situation. Jack (David Stanners) is one of the strange ones amongst the pack, he wants to create a time machine and travel back to the point of death and undo it all. Another strange one and very isolated from the rest of the group is Vivienne (Jackie Edwards) she is the quiet wallpaper type, but a deep thinker, she is another with strong feelings for our dead friend. Caroline (Louise Ross) has been through something like this before, as she lost her mother a while ago. Dianne (Andrea Scrimshaw) never knew Jonathan, but wants to be part of the circle of life (sic). The best character in my opinion is Nathan (Simeon Zack), he doesn't know what he wants to be straight, gay or indifferent, but very funny in the process.
If things weren't bad enough then during the Facebook sessions between the clan, Jonathan communicates with them, at first just the odd word, but slowly getting well in with the conversations. This is obviously very shocking, with half of the friends being blamed for insensitivity, and half believing that he isn't dead and hiding away from the world somewhereorother.
What follows within the group, with their mental and physical state being pushed from one pillar to post, is a fantastic set up of friendship and shared feelings. This play really made me think about what I would do/say/feel if anybody close to me dies, would I do the same and post things on the internet, would people contradict what I have written, and how angry/pleased to have know that particular person. On the same level I often wonder what people would do/say about me when I kick the bucket. Coping mechanisms within the close group was written beautifully and so in tune with what is happening on all levels of Social Media at the moment - still bitching at each other and making light of something that is so dreadful.
Lee Mattinson has embraced the new-ish way of celebration in tribute format to a passing, by creating a wonderfully funny and moving drama that has it all. The acting by all on stage, was brilliant, what a talented lot, we will definitely see some of these back at Live in years to come.
A minimalistic stage was suffice to focus all of the attention on the action. Great Lighting (Drummond Orr) and AV design (Paul Aziz).
Strangely today in the news a yob was convicted of 'Trolling' Facebook tribute pages, something that is very rare, something that the characters above thought might be happening.
This play is a  brilliant statement on today's society and how different the cutting edge of technology has changed the way we feel/think and behave.

Runs until Thursday 15th 

Michael Hunter

Tags: Andrea Scrimshaw, Comedy, Education, Emma Crowley Bennet, David Stanners, Facebook, Georgia Richardson, Jackie Edwards, Jonathon Likes This, Lee Mattison, Live Theatre, Louise Ross, Meghan Doyle, Newcastle, Patrick McNamee, Paul James, Simeon Zack, Social Networking, Youth Theatre

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