Stephen Laughton’s new play Screens, playing at Theatre 503, is an emotionally explosive exploration of the relationships within a family who are all struggling to accept and understand their individual identities, heritage, sexuality, nationality and place in society.
Al (Declan Perring) the Cypriot, British gay, son of Emine and brother of Ayse, played sublimely by Nadia Hynes, who really captures the tone and attitude of a complicated teenager when faced with difficult circumstances. It is Ayse who begins to be the most fascinating, albeit unlikeable character, one who is representative of all the dark qualities that this generation of youth through social media is breading.
Their story begins with a decapitated cat, that mother Emine (a lovely nuanced performance by Fisun Burgess) finds in the street and carries around for the rest of the play in her rather ironic bag-for-life, as she walks around the square theatre space, divided by a white walkway, the theme of circles is apparent. Emine is stuck in a circle of grief and denial about her true identity. It is when Ayse discovers her mother’s secret that the play takes a turn and both her and her brother’s life is sent into confusion.
Screens powerfully tackles the dominance of social media. It successfully proffers the idea that we are all being sucked into the screens of our devices. This is depicted by the thin white band that wraps around the top of the space, onto which texts, hashtags, images as if in real time are projected. This visual cue helps the audience to be drawn further into the frenetic addictive and ultimately dangerous world of social media.
It poses the important question, how far will we go to be ‘liked’? And further still, with its shocking conclusion, what will our insistent need to share encourage us to do?
Screen’s is a timely reminder that our political, cultural and religious tolerances need to be reassessed and warns that our self-obsessive culture can have horrific repercussions. Stephen Laughton weaves together all these themes in this gritty play. Unfortunately Cressida Brown’s direction is uninspired, but thankfully Laughton’s dynamic, rhythmic dialogue and strong cast is enough to be the fuel that powers the tone and action of the piece.
If he can do all this in one act, one can only imagine what he is capable of creating in the future.
Screens is playing at Theatre 503 until 3 September