SPC Reviews: (Brighton and) Hove, Actually

From Unmasked Theatre

Lotte and Toby have screwed up. One stupid Facebook post and everyone thinks they’re getting married. On Christmas Eve … Too embarrassed to admit the mistake, Lotte and Toby have a lot of planning to do, a lot of canapes to order and a lot of fires to put out.

Come and share a little Christmas havoc and fun, say Unmasked Theatre, a young and vibrant theatre company quite recently arrived in Brighton and making a real impact with its new drama productions.

Their latest show, written and directed by Luke Ofield and Pip O’Neill, is a very millennial-now Christmas love story, packed with Buzzfeed, Tinder and Twitter references – the whole thing happens because of a bit of casual Facebook fun, and the mobile phone is central to the action. The tale unfolds with plenty of laughs as we’re introduced to family complications, wedding planner nightmares and the ups and downs of a 21st century relationship.

Fifteen actors is a lot to juggle on the tiny Rialto stage, many doubling the multiple characters, minor friends and random acquaintances. While the show does need more space to unfold, the company effectively uses the device of spilling off the stage, coming on from the back of the auditorium and speaking from within the audience as we’re drawn into the couple’s extended quirky social network.

A first night technical hitch meant the planned projections had to be replaced with last minute whiteboard notices and announcements about where we were in each scene – the audience entered right into the spirit of it, helping out with mobile phone torchlight, and it worked just fine.

There’s quite a variety of acting styles on show – drama queen mum and super-sensible Lotte’s exchanges echoed Saffy and Edina from Ab Fab, and the characterful cameos from various weird friends and relations are great fun. Standout performance of the night is from Benjamin Baeza, alternating between Stoned Richard, the loud and lairy northern best man, and smoothie Sven, a contender for the heroine’s affections. One to watch.

There’s a sense of sweetness here, and it’s not really a spoiler to say that the expected and required ending is satisfyingly in place. Written in film screenplay style, complete with montages and quick cutting between characters and scenes, the ‘warming, Richard Curtis-esque comedy for Christmas’ tagline’s very appropriate and I’d be interested to see if the show has a future life on screen.

Philippa Hammond
Sussex Playwrights

17th, 19th, 21st & 23rd December

Rialto Theatre, Brighton

Details and tickets