TRH Brighton Fringe 2016: Persona

TRH Brighton Fringe 2016: Persona

Originally published on The Reviews Hub

Awarded 3 1/2 stars – Topical

Social media is awash with commentary about controversial MP Michael Fawcett. The press, the trolls, the bloggers all want to share their opinions with the world. When he dies, they don’t let up – his policies are so disliked that the internet doesn’t seem to care that this is a recently deceased man, a husband and a father. Harper (Amy Louise Potter) and Faye (Miriam Calis) care. Survived by his two daughters, they are left to deal with the backlash or being instantly hated because of their last name. A young, career-hungry reporter (Georgia Bellett) at their door and their every online movement tracked by the trolls (Finley North-Mckeown, Maya Little, Ruby Hammond), all looking to impress each other with a fresh, cool torrent of hateful bile fired at the two teenagers. Small wonder that neither daughter copes well with the events that follow.

Jon Barton’s play Persona rings fresh in the ears of today’s society. The media; Twitter; the chat rooms. Everywhere is awash with public opinion, the right to free speech taken to extremes. The script, while tending to spread itself too thin, highlights the myriad of personalities that crawl out the woodwork for a famous tragedy. It isn’t until the end of the play that Faye finally learns how to simply turn them off, tune out the white noise that has crackled through the speakers, the background to the previous 60 minutes of the play.

The dialogue between all parties is delivered well, each actor gaining a core understanding of the material and their role. Be it the witches’ coven, the trio of Mean Girls trolls providing fast-paced, well timed comic relief, or the daughters’ heart-to-hearts trying to support and empathise with each other, each performance is mainly competent. There are awkward moments, some of which are intended and well judged (Harper and her boyfriend realising that each has changed and drifted apart), others which are clunky and rough around the edges. Faye (Calis) arguably has the most challenging central role and could do with considering how she reacts to her sister during their frequent dialogues but shows her flexibility when reacting to the media trolls.

Banishing the internet demons is frankly as easy as switching off a phone, shutting down a computer, putting the TV on standby. Theatrically, it’s as easy as banishing the characters from the stage. The final choice that the daughters are faced with is whether to tell the world their side of the story. Mike in hand, spotlight shining down, Faye (Calis) looks to the audience uneasy about her decision. There is no right or wrong answer here, the digital mob forms its opinions one way or another. Persona simply shows how fickle that crowd can be, destroying ancillary lives in their path.

Writer: Jon Barton

Reviewer: Daniel Perks

Runs until 17 May 2016