The Old Room
White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 26th April 2018
“A play like this has huge relevance today but fails to carry its interesting premise”
The emergence of the Cambridge Analytica story over the last few weeks has brought questions of our online presence into the public sphere. With our personal data potentially available through a wide variety of sources, does this affect our personal relationships? Or how does it compromise us if we are trusted with politically sensitive material? This is the inspiration for William Stanton’s The Old Room, playing at the White Bear Theatre.
We follow the story of Sam Conway, a well to do data specialist aiding a company known as 4C. They appear to be political influencers, campaigners capable of pushing the public towards action. As he delves deeper into a recent data loss, his relationships with the employees develop. As he looks to uncover what has happened, the motivations of those around him will also be revealed.
Stanton’s play is comprised of a series of short scenes, playing with time through a series of flashbacks that affect the present action. This structure is interesting, but at times can be too convoluted. You can tell from viewing there has been a huge amount of research put in, and get the sense that there is a deep knowledge of the subject. But that fails to translate to the drama of the action, and too often a series of debates occur between characters that in terms of plot brings little. This is combined with some flat characterisations, and Karina Knapinska’s Romy especially suffers from a real lack of depth.
The production from Martin Harvey is smooth and controlled, formed of three areas that represent a location each, from a bar to the office which becomes Sam’s work base. However, for such a dense topic it needs more conviction to draw us in as an audience, more style or confidence which allows us to enjoy pieces like The Social Network, one which catapults us into the world rather than tries to bluntly explain it.
The performances from each of the cast are comfortable without quite flying into life. Nicholas Limm brings clarity to Sam but struggles to ignite his complicated personal life as his worries mount up. Nicole Roberts’ Nina has some really interesting moments but is hobbled by some weaker writing to her character. Strong support comes from Patrick Romer, who plays Gant with a compelling smarminess.
A play like this has huge relevance today but fails to carry its interesting premise. Possibly with some work this could be a promising thriller with an obvious appeal, but at the moment reaches too far and requires some real focus.
Reviewed by Callum McCartney
Photography by Natalia Alvarez
The Old Room
White Bear Theatre until 12th May
Previously at this venue