Trafalgar Studios, London – until 16 September 2017
Late Company has transferred recently from Finborough Theatre to the tiny Trafalgar studios, where you sit, as if sharing the dining room, with the members of the cast. Debra and Michael, a couple whose gay son Joel committed suicide after having been taunted online, have gathered, a year after his death, with Tamara, Michael and their son Curtis, to try and find some kind of ‘closure’, some kind of reparation. Curtis was responsible for some of the bullying. A place at the dining table has been laid for Joel.
The play benefits from this close actor-audience involvement – you are drawn into the play as it unfolds, and leave feeling utterly involved, transformed in some way by what you have witnessed. We learn how Debra was unaware of videos that Joel had posted online, and how Curtis, moody Curtis, didn’t think about what he was doing. We learn about Joel’s depression – the sympathy that Debra displays, and the somewhat bullish opinions expressed by Michael that people should toughen up – that children are too protected.
Jordan Tannahill’s script sparkles with authenticity. How many times have these conversations played out up and down the country? As Tannahill himself questions, and has us do, how much are we as parents responsible for what our children do and see online? How much space should we give our children? The actors succeed in bringing these questions to life in a very real, believable way – even if, occasionally, the Canadian accents lapse a little. If you want an uplifting night out at the theatre, don’t go and see this play. But if you want to be challenged, go and see it tonight.