The iPhone has a lot to answer for. Until its arrival in 2010, picture messaging was too expensive for young people to use. The iPhone changed all that. Suddenly, kids were taking pictures of everything and sending them everywhere and it wasn’t long before dramatists saw the potential.
I’ve seen three plays about sexting, and Four Minutes Twelve Seconds is very much the best. Written by James Fritz in 2014, it was his first play to be produced and was so popular it transferred from the Hampstead Theatre studio to London’s West End. Now, Fritz has transposed the action from London to Oldham, and it’s a success.
I’m not going to rehash the plot; it’s too full of surprises and it would be a shame to give anything away. I will say that it’s extremely funny and, in much the same way that the Scandi Noir show The Killing revolutionised TV crime drama by focusing on the parents of the disappeared child, this is really about the effects of the incident on the parents rather than the children.
Jo Mousely plays Di with the perfect comic timing that we saw in Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking at the Coliseum last year, and when the show tips into darkness she takes us with her. Her character’s journey is full of contradictions but we believe it, at least to the point where there were practically stand-up fights in the theatre bar afterwards along the lines of ‘she’d never do that’, ‘oh yes she would’ etc. How often does theatre generate that kind of engagement?
Lee Toomes’ David has an equally emotionally perilous journey and goes from being an ostensibly nice man to something quite different. Conversations in the bar ensued about some of his behaviour.
Noah Olaoye gives a charming performance as schoolboy Nick, managing to be simultaneously determined and deferential. Alyce Liburd as Cara, the girl at the centre of the incident, is terrific. She negotiates a difficult emotional journey beautifully (which in a less capable actor would be all one-note), sometimes just giving us flashes of what she’s really thinking, but they are enough. This young woman will be a star. You read it here first. Perhaps more actors should spend seven years working in New Look before treading the boards if this is the result.
All this excellent work takes place in a set designed by Anna Reid. It’s a white box reminiscent of the kind of enclosed space favoured by Headlong, but at the back there’s a set of stairs leading up, which makes us all wonder what is going to come down? Direction is by Natasha Harrison and Chris Lawson, and they’ve made all the right choices.
This is a promising start to the year for Oldham Coliseum. Everything about this production shows that the theatre produces work as good as or better than any other theatre in the North. Go and see for yourselves – it’s only five minutes walk from the tram.
Photos by Joel Chester Fildes
Four Minutes Twelve Seconds is at Oldham Coliseum until March 7, 2020. For more information, click here.