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Phillipa and Will are Now In A Relationship
Published on Wednesday, 18 May 2011

3 stars

Upstairs at Three and Ten (venue website)
17-19 May, 1:00pm-1:30pm; 20-22 May, 2:30pm-3:00pm
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.

The timeworn subject of teenage infatuation is given a modern twist, with Phillipa and Will (Willipa) reading out the “true’’ love story they developed by email from October 3 through one year and out the other side. It’s amusing entertainment for half an hour at lunchtime, as interesting for sending up the age-old language of love as it is for as 21st century communication on Facebook; by observation, both can be very limited.

The scene awaiting the audience is a familiar sight: the two of them are perched on stools with laptops, apparently engrossed in their respective screens.  As they read, a screen behind them displays the date and time of each entry. November 4, 11.22 “Poke” (Phillipa speaking – tone coy). November 4, 11.26 “Poke” (Phillipa speaking – tone less coy). November 4, 11.31 “Poke” (Phillipa speaking – tone anxious)...

Speaking in an abbreviated “text language” may be a disservice to the richness of English; but it serves this infatuated pair very well, immersed as they are like many a couple in their own lovey-dovey linguistics of “smissing” (missing) and Will-uggling (snuggling).  Throughout the show they do not really engage with any subject in correspondence, preferring to swap metaphorical declarations of love (“like wombats love beanbags – happy face”).  She is a fresher and he a third year student, so the electronic medium is a substitute for the real thing when they are home for the holidays, and they are duly woeful when they are not together (“sad face”).

As everyone who communicates by email and text probably knows, there is one huge drawback: without the intonation of the “speaker”, very often messages can be misconstrued as angry when not, or accusing when merely inquisitive.  Will’s part is read out fairly dead-pan to begin with, without the embellishment of expression available to him in normal conversation – exposing the tawdry language of emails which bear no resemblance to flowery, old-fashioned love letters. 

Phillipa, on the other hand, chooses to create a performance from her entries, enacting them with a range of emotions from coy to excited to angry. This creates an awkward imbalance between the performers.

It is also a point on which an otherwise lighthearted performance falls down: Phillipa often literally squeals her lines to convey excitement. The effect is offensive, and as unnerving as the squeak of chalk scraping a blackboard.  For the audience’s sake she had better turn down the volume for the next two performances.

Overall this is a great example, though, of how theatre doesn’t need to be sophisticated to be fun.

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