April: a brutal little play

Being a member of the audience at an Emily Holyoake play is never a straightforward experience. However, it’s always a rewarding one provided that you like a hefty challenge or two served with your entertainment. A packed house at the Coffee Cellar in Exeter last Saturday evening were in turns both amused and shocked by her latest play, April.

April explores the world of what psychologists know as computer mediated communication, but everyone else thinks of as t’internet. In a little over an hour, the developing online relationship between Will, an actor in a popular television series and April, a fan, allows the audience to gain an insight into what can happen when little white lies and deceit are facilitated through the medium of online social networks.

There’s plenty of humour in the dialogue, but as the walls between Will and April are apparently torn down through the false intimacy of technology, the reality is that the exact opposite is happening. Eventually, the web of deceit and lies spun by both protagonists comes crashing down and as an onlooker you end up wondering exactly who has been the controlling power in the relationship after all – or indeed, if either of them were ever truly in control in the first place.

Sustaining a duologue for over an hour in a space as tight and intimate as the Coffee Cellar is no mean feat, but Alice Chalk (April) and Nick Havergal (Will) manage this with great skill, timing the delivery of their lines to perfection. It’s an even more remarkable performance when you realise that for the majority of the play, neither actor is able to look directly at the other – until April persuades Will to turn on his webcam and Will eventually persuades April to do the same. Tom Nicholas (director) deserves great credit for enabling the humour in the script evident in the early exchanges between April and Will to come through, yet achieving this in a way that never trivialises the darkness at the heart of the story. The team was completed by stage manager Eloise Tong who was clearly in control of the proceedings from start to finish!

April may well be (in the words of its author) “a brutal little play”, but the subtlety of the writing and performance as power ebbs and flows between the characters make it a truly memorable one.

If you missed it this time around, then you’ll be pleased to know that it will be performed again at the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter on 22nd January 2013, as part of their “From Devon with Love” festival of new writing. Tickets are £7 (£5 for concessions) and are hopefully selling fast!

Image used by kind permission of New Model Theatre

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