In a time of political uproar, and especially during an era of political correctness, Twitstorm is the sort of uplifting comedy we need in London. Over the course of 2 hours, we are presented with a racial slur, an ensuing crisis, and a swarm of opinions on the reality of living within a PC society.
Upon leaving Park Theatre; however, I wondered to myself – isn’t it ironic that in a play focused on political correctness, I’m not entirely sure if the minority characters were fairly represented.
To summarise without giving away too much information, Twitstorm – written by Chris England (An Evening with Gary Lineker) – is a play which capitalises on the controversy of being politically correct in 2017. Guy Manton (Jason Merrells) is our protagonist (or arguably, our anti-hero) who is considered a national treasure, and host of comedy-panel show, Arguing The Toss. He is married to Bex Manton (Claire Goose), an author steadily growing in popularity. Guy also works alongside Neil (Justin Edwards), long-time friend and ghost-writer on social media, and Rupert (Chris England), his manager.
After a bewildered Bex answers their front door to a grown-up-Ike (Tom Moutchi), a child Guy and Bex once sponsored in Africa for just the price of “a monthly direct debit”, he lives with them whilst becoming accustomed to English culture. Guy, dubious of his intentions, resents Ikes’ presence in his home, and at an end-of-season wrap party refers to him as a ‘chugger’ (charity mugger), and then repeats the insult whilst replacing a vowel so it sounds like a particular racial slur (for readers who need a hint, he replaces the ‘u’ with an ‘i’). Guy’s “innocent joke” finds its way onto Twitter, and within minutes the world has reacted, and inevitably taken offence.
If there is one thing this play cannot be faulted on, it is its comedic value. Moutchi possesses a naturally comedic presence as Ike, a refugee who appears to be clueless about every day culture in England. Delivering quips such as “You have… followers? Where are they?”, before proceeding to physically search for them. Ike acts as the innocent character full of wonder that can successfully create and deliver a joke in any sort of scenario.
Moutchis’ character is somewhat similar to Edwards’, whose character Neil breaks the fourth wall with lines such as “wouldn’t this whole fiasco make a great play?” during a time where guns are a-blazing (if you do see Twitstorm, you’ll understand exactly what I mean when he says the line).
Whilst acting as a source of great comedy, Neil is also the epitome of what it means to be reasonable and politically correct. After the ‘chugger’ incident, Guy refuses to apologise for what he believes is an innocent joke, especially as Ike initially doesn’t take offence. Bex and Rupert want Guy to publicly apologise in an interview with Daniel Priest (Ben Kavanagh), an influential blogger with a large following on social media, who in turn wants Guy to apologise to him personally. Neil however, is the only character who understands a mistake has been made and needs to be rectified, yet doesn’t expect it to be resolved with a simple apology.
Edwards’ portrayal of Neil is a convincing one, providing a much-desired element of reality in a cast composed of caricatured personalities. Whilst the theatrical skills of the cast are stellar, and characters such as Ike are treasures within Twitsorm, Englands’ story fails to portray minority characters as equal to their heterosexual, middle-class, white counterparts – a considerably important aspect of a play, especially when it revolves around political correctness.
Although Ike attains a level of superstardom and achieves exactly what Guy Manton has achieved, the success of his character is then faltered by the revelation that he is not a refugee and instead sells blood diamonds, perpetuating the villainization of minorities. This is similar to Kavanaghs’ character, Daniel Priest, who is initially described as this influential, forward-thinker in the realm of political correctness.
Priest actively demonstrates that clothes don’t have a gender (an idea which I fully support), and is presumably a member of the LGBTQ+ initialism. However, when we meet Priest, he is portrayed as a self-righteous, pretentious villain who is supposed to champion over the culturally aware generation – a slightly unfair representation of a politically correct being (again, thank you God/Buddha/Beyoncé for the legend that is Neil, for fairly representing PC attitudes somewhere).
All in all, Twitstorm was an enjoyable experience – one I would recommend to theatre-goers in need of a light-hearted comedy. In regard to the criticism of inaccurate representation, Priest argues at one point that he would “support the controversial joke, if [he] found the joke funny”. If you can see the humour in places I couldn’t, then be prepared for a barrel of laughs. If not, then rejoice! England’s ability to captivate an audience through an engaging storyline, not to mention a gaggle of hilarious one-liners, will be more than enough to keep you sufficiently entertained for 2 hours.
◁ Twitstorm runs at Park Theatre until July 1. More about: | Park Theatre