Ever dreamed of a world where technology has developed so far that it can anticipate your every need – before you even know it yourself? Perhaps you’d like your ideal partner designed for you, rather than go through the messy business of human interaction. The only drawback is that love is outlawed, and even mentioning the word can land you in serious trouble – does that seem like a fair deal? Think about how often you use the word in a throwaway manner (“Oh, I love this song!”) and consider how different & alien life would be.
This is the premise of Neverwant, Bite-Size Plays’ latest offering – following in the footsteps of their previous Edinburgh productions since 2006. Formed from a couple of previous Bite-Size Breakfast Show plays written by Billy Knowelden and Thomas Willshire, the 60-minute play is at Bunker One at the Pleasance Courtyard all this month.
It’s obviously full of ever-relevant topics – as our dependence on technology increases, and our online footprint deepens, we open ourselves up to the prospects of an Orwellian future. Neverwant imagines the “post-love age” in a darkly comic fashion, as Guy wrestles with his feelings for Pen, seemingly unable to get to grips with the fact that he can’t use the word ‘love’ anymore, let alone experience it. Instead, everything is rather sanitised and interactions have become overly impersonal – offering formal or informal greetings, communicating with your barista via an app, or filing reports on people suspected of showing too much intimacy with another person.
The five actors play several different parts, swiftly changing between them and making them easily identifiable thanks to slight costume and accent changes. Scene transitions, too, are slickly done; futuristic music plays as the cast rearrange the set, the minimalist design complementing the surroundings of Bunker One.
The company is made up of a combination of Bite-Size regulars and newbies: Thomas Willshire, Claira Watson Parr, Rosie Edwards, Imogen Miller Porter and Tom Hartwell. They work together as a great comedy unit, bouncing off one another and with terrific comic timing; there are some brilliantly observed one-liners (“I want to sing James Blunt until everyone’s sick!”) which are used to great effect. Watson Parr is wonderfully predatory as Helen, and Hartwell is equally hilarious as three very different characters – Protocol Compliance Officer Brian is rather memorable, especially as part of an overly professional double act with Edwards’ Beverly (who also has fun in the role of companion droid Fiona).
My verdict? A keenly observed dark comedy that is incredibly relevant to our technology-dependent lives – an hour of brilliant new writing that you simply must see.
Bite-Sized Plays Presents: Neverwant runs at Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker One) until 27 August 2018 (2.15pm, 1 hour). Tickets are available online or from the box office.