views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Human
The Moors Bar
16th August 2017

★★★☆☆

Publicity image for Human

Photography provided by Hooked Theatre

It's a pretty damning indictment of today's society that the premise of Human is what it means to be a woman and yet the majority of this show is spent discussing the evolution of solution media and dating apps. Apparently how we females define ourselves is all about the likes and the swipes - this, dear reader, is what we've become. Join me in wincing at this uncomfortable truth. As well as some observational comedy to do with Facebook and Tinder, Brooke Jones and Holly Kellingray explore the impact of our digital world on our self-esteem with a story about two sisters who are incredibly attached to their smartphones. That thread gives the show more of a personal touch - well, it is called Human after all.

Holly (Jones) is an old hand at t'interwebs, using it her to mark her prey and share jokes with old mates. Younger sister Piper (Kellingray) is less clued up and although she and her sibling are reasonably close, she needs far more attention than Holly can give her. As they say, you're never more lonely than when you feel lonely in a crowd, and all those Facebook friends and people in WhatsApp groups are giving her a complex rather than making her feel wanted. Holly never intentionally rejects her sister and she quite clearly loves her, tenderly putting her to bed after a drunken night out together and singing her a lullaby. However, she's so involved in her own personal dramas that she doesn't notice how increasingly isolated Piper is feeling. As we watch the distance grow between the two women, we appreciate just how easily this has happened.

The writing and acting are both frequently exaggerated for laughs, although that said, it does get a bit dark at one point. For the most part, the two actresses pull faces, dart around the small but perfectly formed bar and even take selfies with us, pulling us into their characters' digitally-obssessed world. The on-stage sisterly dynamic is credible and there are some quieter moments that allow for more depth. I sense we don't get to see the full range of what this pair can do, but we see enough to enjoy their delivery.

Whilst it does feels like Jones and Kellingray invest the necessary time in explaining how Piper has become so lonely, the ending they create is rather abrupt. Possibly this is intentional and designed to shock us, mirroring Piper's unexpected and sudden distress. However, the conclusion instead feels hurried and indeed, the pacing throughout does feel choppy, with the ending reinforcing this niggle. As well as the observational comedy and pure drama elements land, it's difficult to link these two separate ideas together smoothly, with the constant shift in tone sometimes a bit too disconcerting, briefly taking us out of the moment.

It's obvious that Jones and Kellingray enjoy making theatre together and that simple yet very earnest joy makes it a pleasure to watch them on stage. There's certainly potential to refine Human further and I'd certainly swipe yes to seeing what they do next.

Human ran from 15th to 18th August 2017 at The Moors Bar, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Hornsey (National Rail)



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