Skip to content



4 starsReviewed by Richard Stamp
The Market Place
16 & 18-19 Jul, 8:15pm to 9pm

Before I saw WOW – the very first show at brand-new venue The Market Place – I’d certainly heard of World of Warcraft, a computer game which promises the chance to re-invent yourself in a fully-realised fantasy world.  But I have to admit, I’d always assumed it wasn’t intended for people like me.  And nor would I have imagined it could possibly appeal to Sarah – the sassy central character of this eloquent, intelligent, and thoughtful one-woman play.

After all, Sarah’s sociable and outgoing, a long way from the stereotype of a tousle-haired man hunched over a keyboard in a lonely back room.  But it turns out that’s just one of the illusions which WOW sets out to dispel.  From the opening monologue, where actor-playwright Sian Dudley mounts a convincing case for games as a form of art, I found my views were changing; and by the end, as I listened to her luxuriant descriptions of towering forests and echoing ruins, I too felt the curious pull of this invented online world.

You soon start to sense, though, that Sarah’s foray into virtual reality isn’t an entirely healthy one.  Intercut with her tales of adventure in World of Warcraft, we hear about her declining fortunes in real life – and for a moment I feared the script was on course to become a techno-phobic tabloid morality tale.  But it proves far more finely-balanced than that.  Avoiding the obvious-but-trite conclusion about the importance of “real” friends, it asks whether comradeship in a virtual world is any less precious than relationships formed of flesh and blood – an unexpectedly challenging question, which the play is clever enough to resist trying to answer.

Dudley’s performance is clever too, particularly when she echoes the stilted movements of a character in a computer game, and she easily held my interest throughout a confident and highly-accomplished monologue.  It helps that she’s punctuated her script with some genuinely hilarious one-liners, as well as a handful of accessible insights into the history of online games.  But at 45 minutes, WOW proved that rarest of all Fringe creations: a play I wished had lasted longer.  It taught me a lot about computers, yes, but the underpinning human story feels like it has further to grow.

And with the set consisting of a single chair plonked in the middle of a bar, I found the cluttered background a regrettable distraction; even just a screen to cover the wall behind Dudley would make it so much easier to lose yourself in her world.  So there’s room yet for a little development – with which, I can see this becoming a true stand-out show.  In the meantime, I enjoyed WOW for what it already is: a surprising and compelling tale, constructed with love around the most unexpected of themes.

<< Dracula's Women Undergrou...   The Speech >>

About the Buxton Fringe

The Buxton Fringe 2014 runs from 9 to 27 July in the town of Buxton, Derbyshire. 

It's easy to find your way around this friendly Festival, with most venues within a stone's throw of the town centre.  For more information on the Peak District's own Fringe, check out the official website.

Buxton Fringe online >>