“I’m a second generation immigrant, the generation that makes it or breaks it”
In its opening quarter, Stephen Laughton’s Screens manages to be that rare thing indeed, a play that actually comes close to capturing the way in which technology has utterly transformed both our everyday behaviour and interpersonal relationships. Georgia Lowe’s smartly spare design allows for Richard Williamson and Dan English’s projections to take us through Al’s faltering first steps into gay online dating on Grindr, Ayşe’s hashtag-heavy documentation of her teenage strife on Instagram and crucially, a peek into their mother Emine’s inbox on her brand-new smartphone
It’s an ingenious route into the lives, both online and off, of this British Turkish Cypriot family living in Harlow but we soon come to see that Laughton’s scope is wider, much wider, than this, as he folds in issues of the immigrant experience, splintered cultural identity, homophobia, post-Brexit racial antagonism and much more besides. Thus Screens becomes a highly ambitious piece of writing about the difficulties in finding your self when personal and political circumstances are in such flux.
So Emine’s world is shattered by the dual revelation of a family secret and the murder of her cat, Al’s insistence on meeting a nice guy (ie blocking anyone who sends him a dick pic) leads to the best worst date I think I’ve ever seen, and Ayşe’s frustrations threaten to boil over. What Cressida Brown’s production shows us effectively is the ease with which we present different facets of ourselves to get what we want, even whilst professing to search for a singular sense of self. This is brutally and effectively shown not just through the Cypriot conflict but also in a British society that feels on a precipice.
At just 70 minutes, there’s a slight sense of abruptness as Laughton winds up to a hurried climax where I’d’ve happily taken a second half to further explore this fascinating interconnected tangle with its arrestingly hyper-modern references (the first play to feature Pokémon Go perhaps?). And it helps that it is powerfully performed by its five-strong company and particularly Declan Perring and Nadia Hynes as the siblings who don’t know how to work out their anger about feeling like they don’t know who they are.