Social media, in the right hands, and with the brain in gear, is a marvellous invention that allows global interaction between people.
But we’ve all heard stories about emails, bitching about the boss, that have been pinged off in drunken recklessness or inappropriate Tweets that have gone viral.
So Chris England’s latest comedy, Twitstorm which opened last night at London’s Park Theatre is right on trend.
Twitter doesn’t do irony or sarcasm and one of the modern pitfalls of using, particularly, Twitter is that the written word can be misinterpreted with catastrophic consequences.
An off-the-cuff private remark, or a joke said out loud, takes a different emphasis when written down in less than 140 characters.
We’re now living in such a puritanical, judgemental world that there is always someone who will be offended.
So the premise of Twitstorm is good but yet England’s plot appears strangely quaint, as though written by a Luddite who refuses to embrace modern technology (and, coincidentally, Mr England doesn’t appear to be on Twitter).
Jason Merrells plays Guy Manton, an arrogant, cynical talk show host who lives with his author wife, Bex (Merrells’ former Casualty colleague, Claire Goose) and lets his best mate, and the show’s writer, Neil, handle his social media accounts.
Guy is selfish and self-centred but Bex does her bit for charity by supporting a Child in Africa with her monthly donations going to aid a youngster growing up in a war zone.
But it comes as a bit of a shock one day when the child turns up on their doorstep – now a strapping man called Ike (Tom Moutchi), an orphaned refugee who considers the couple his surrogate parents.
Bex is taken in by the boy’s sob story while Guy, ever the journalist, is suspicious.
Ike gets his feet under the table and up the nose of his host until, at a work’s barbecue held in their home, Guy snaps and makes a comment.
Pretty soon the remark has been “innocently” posted on the TV star’s Twitter account and is going viral. Worse the whole of social media goes into meltdown with questions asked in Parliament and virtual lynch mobs wanting the vilified Guy burned at the stake.
The satire has a lot to say about social media and the way it can be abused. There’s no doubt that a number of us walk on eggshells, terrified we’ve typed something that others will misconstrue.
Guy lets rip with a tirade of pent up anger and frustration, berating the way social media has robbed us of free speech. He is speaking for an older generation who would say that he’s right. Others may argue that it has also created a more open and honest society.
But this uneven comedy isn’t consistently funny and England would have been better served coming up with an alternative plotline that doesn’t hinge on the overworked use of the “N-word” and racial stereotyping.
There’s also an fogyish derision in his creation of young, non-gender, new wave journalist Daniel Priest, who interviews the old school Manton (Ben Kavanagh in high heels, eyeliner and moralistic attitude).
Older theatre-goers will nod their heads and empathise with Manton but a younger generation won’t understand what all the fuss is about and could well be appalled by the seemingly racist humour in the production.
There were audible gasps from millennials sitting in last night’s audience who were astonished at Manton’s bigotry while many of the more mature theatre-goers recognised his plight and laughed.
That’s the social media savvy generation for you. Watch what you say out there.
#Twitstorm runs at the Park Theatre until July 1.
Hashtag trending. Twitstorm is an uneven comedy which uses an overworked racial gag to satirise society’s new found worship of social media.