Branching out a little from my normal fare, I felt that I want to share my thoughts on a production by the Beam Theatre Company that I had the joy of watching on Thursday 4th February 2016. My wife, daughter and I all attended the opening night of In Love And Warcraft by Madhuri Shekar and we are all glad that we did so. To make it even more special, this is the first performance of this play outside the United States since it was first performed in February 2014, so we were doubly blessed.
Spoiler alert. Ignore this part of the review if you don’t want to know what happens.
Evie Malone has it all figured out. Not only does she command a top-ranked guild in Warcraft with her online boyfriend, she also makes a little cash on the side writing love letters for people who’ve screwed up their relationships. Love is like Warcraft, after all. It’s all about strategies, game plans, and not taking stupid risks.
Well, that’s what she thinks, until she falls for a guy. In Real Life. And no amount of gaming expertise will help her out when she finds herself with a non-virtual, totally real, and incredibly cute boyfriend, who wants more from her than she’s willing to give. Could he be the highest level boss Evie ever has to face?
Now that you know what the play is about, let’s look at why I am sad that this will only run for three consecutive nights from 4th February 2016 at the Roxy Assembly in Edinburgh.
This play is about relationships, be they sexually charged tempests or platonic BFFs and the many stages in between. Evie is a cross between Cyrano de Bergerac, Elizabeth Bennet and Mindy McCready (but the violence is online) and is played to perfection by Sarah-Louise Cairney. I enjoyed Sarah’s playing of Evie in that Evie’s almost asexuality was part of her that did not need to be discussed. It was simply there. It did not need to be explained or for her character to be apologetic about. This was also reflected by her being a gamer. No explanation required.
The other extreme was her flatmate and best friend, Kitty. Kitty, played by Georgina Grisold, is a flamboyant extrovert, who is at the other extreme of sexual activity. Again, there is no need for her personality or her sexuality to be explained or dissected.
And for that reason alone, it is worth going to see the play where you have two strong female characters who are not solely defined by who they are partnered with, but are defined by their own goals and achievements. And if you are a parent to teenagers, I recommend bringing them along too as daughters will feel vindicated if they do not define themselves by who they are partnered with and sons may realise that females are people too. But be warned, adult themes are discussed and not everyone will feel comfortable seeing this with their teenagers.
Reviewing what I have written, you would not be surprised if you went to see this and expected to see something from a 1970s experimental art commune, but this is not po-faced. This is not serious. This is a comedy and you will laugh out loud. I know I certainly did.
Moving on to the other characters we also have Ryan, Evie’s online boyfriend, played by Adam Daniels. Either he is a gamer himself or he has too many gamer friends as that was another great performance. In fact, I recognised the behaviour of a few of my own friends watching him.
Raul is the boss level that Evie will struggle to beat. Adrian MacDonald put in a rock solid performance as Raul who tries to come to terms with a girlfriend that is not interested in sex, but can understand the intricacies of an online world that leaves him dumbfounded.
And my personal favourites were Hamish Hawk and Abbye Eva. They played the additional characters such as Nathan, the gay hairdresser who kept ending up with straight guys.
Abbye was equally as enjoyable as she put in a great performance with her additional roles and is pictured as the gynecologist who had to deal with an increasingly emotional Evie during Evie’s examination.
The changes of set between each act was well executed and choreographed. Andra, the director, said she wanted the set moves to keep within the spirit of the play. So she directed the actors to imagine being in a grid based game and acting as if they were robots. It certainly worked for me as I thought the movements of the minimalist set was referencing Qbert rather than anything else.
In the later scenes of the second act of the play, the action moves online. And to see the actors moving in a similar fashion to Warcraft characters was a nice nod towards the source material. The actors had all been tasked with playing World of Warcraft once they had been cast and Warcraft has claimed another victim in Sarah-Louise as she is now a hardened player!
This is a very funny, very thought provoking play and Warcraft is the backdrop. Anything could have been used, comic conventions, a night at a pub or even meeting at a gym, but none would have been able to explore the growing sense of living our lives split between digital and real-time selves.
If you are anywhere near Edinburgh during these dates, go and see this wonderful troupe, but just one warning. Don’t go with a Warcraft player as my wife kept telling me which bits are in Warcraft and which are not!
• In Love and Warcraft runs at the Assembly Roxy, Roxborough Place, Edinburgh until tomorrow, Saturday 6th February 2016. Box Office: www.beamtheatre.com/tickets
• The production blog includes introductions to the cast and other information here
• The production moves to the Redbud Theatre, in Denton, Texas, with performances from 24th – 28th February 2016
• Playwright Madhuri Shekar talks about the play In Love and Warcraft here on Youtube. The play was the winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition in 2014