Review: Rough Cuts – Bytes, Royal Court

“It’s on the internet…”

Just a quickie for this as the Royal Court’s Rough Cuts season is a space for short plays, experimental readings and works in progress and so I’m just including it here for the completeness of my theatregoing records. It has previously taken place in the upstairs theatre but as this is currently occupied, they have converted the Wilson rehearsal studio – right next to the main building – into a public performance space for this group of four pieces, all based on the theme of our relationship to the internet.

This year’s cohort of writers made this a must-see from the moment it was announced, featuring as it does Alia Bano, DC Moore, Penelope Skinner and Nick Payne, and with an ensemble of six actors including Sarah Woodward and Al Weaver, I was confident of enjoying the performances too. And it was an agreeable evening from start to early finish – such a rarity to be home well before 9pm on a theatre night – and a pleasing indication of the vibrancy and variety in new theatre writing in the UK. 

There was an interesting mix of styles, from what felt like fully-fleshed scenes from forthcoming plays to highly entertaining independent sketches, probing at the way in which technological advances, particularly the rise of the internet and smartphones, have invaded so much of our lives and changed the way in which we interact with each other. Nick Payne’s emotionally distant couple, forever distracted from genuinely connecting by the deluge of information online they can’t look away from, gave probably the funniest moments of the evening as the state of their relationship was cleverly dissected by having to go through items on a shared bank account to see if it had been hacked – Al Weaver and Rebecca Night both in great form here. 

Penelope Skinner chose to look at the world of online commenting, also to amusing effect; Alia Bano took on the well-worn path of the dangers of social media for teachers and gave it a fresher feel which could well be fascinating if developed further; and DC Moore – one of my favourite new writers alongside Payne – gave us the most obscure but intriguing section, with his sci-fi-inspired musings which would win my vote as the one I most wanted to see more of.

The mini season is sold out now, but there were quite a few empty seats so it might be worth contacting the box office as I would definitely recommend taking the chance to see these works-in-progress if possible, and it is not hard to imagine that we’ll be seeing more of at least a couple of these pieces of writing in the future. 

Running time: 45 minutes straight through
Booking until 22nd January

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