NICOLA WATKINSON reviews Theatre503’s production of ‘Wink’. 

The Internet, its power and its possibilities, is a prominent topic in London theatre at the moment, with ‘The Nether’’s West End transfer continuing to impress. Whilst substantially different in many ways – from design to subject matter – ‘Wink’ shares this theme with ‘The Nether’, as an exploration of the Internet and the possibilities it offers – positive and negative.

‘Wink’ is an innovative play which relies heavily on the ability of its actors (Leon Williams and Sam Clemmett): although there are many characters involved in the plot, we only ever see two of them on-stage, and the others only appear as voices being mimicked or stories being told to the audience. The play takes place in a kind of no-man’s land between reality and imagination – there are no props, and very little in the way of set design, which consists of only lighting and sound effects.

WINK, Theatre503, 10 March - 4 April, courtesy of Savannah Photographic, 1

The two characters, when not interacting with one another, tell us about their days – they mimic their friends and family members but refreshingly, don’t ever actually switch character. Both men are at times hilarious – either through bitter sarcasm or comic naïveté – and at others forcefully emotive. The only odd moments came in a few scenes that are a blend of physical theatre and interpretive dance, which despite being executed well are perhaps unnecessary.

The play follows 16 year-old Mark (Clemmett), who is struggling at school in the wake of his dad’s death, and becomes more and more obsessed with one of his male teachers, imagining that Mr Martin has the life he wants. What Mark doesn’t know is that Mr Martin has plenty of problems of his own, and the parallels between the two characters are immediately noticeable. Through the anonymity of online profiles, Mark manages to learn more and more about his teacher’s life, and gets close to Mr Martin’s girlfriend – while Mr Martin, suspecting that something is up, starts creating fake accounts of his own.

WINK, Theatre503, 10 March - 4 April, courtesy of Savannah Photographic, 6

‘Wink’ cleverly explores the positive and negative possibilities inherent in social media websites, showing us how, while they can offer escapism for a time, these sites can also be damaging and destructive. The production carefully straddles the line, refusing to give a clear-cut opinion on whether the Internet is a force for good or evil – at times, showing us how false our online self-presentation is, while at others glorying in the variety and abundance of available content. Combining thought-provoking and highly relevant content with innovative performance, this is a play which challenges some of our ideas about the online world, but ultimately leaves you to make up your own mind.

Images courtesy of Savannah Photographic.