Back in the 'Chat'
Chatroom's last staging in February earned it a standing ovation from its small audience. It was obvious, even then, that enough people hadn't come to see it. (Something that one can only hope will be rectified with this month’s re-run.) Edna Walsh's creation definitely represented a rarity in local productions, managing to explore the many facets – sharp and funny, tragic and thought provoking – of a subject that most playwrights would handle with care, if at all.
But Walsh introduces his suicidal, angst-ridden teenager, ensconced uncomfortably in his online world, only to throw him headfirst into the fray – seemingly without a moment's hesitation. Jim, vulnerable and gullible, is suddenly at the mercy of people to whom he is not someone in need – he is entertainment.
The play, set entirely in the online world of the internet chatroom, introduces six teenagers. When William, Jim, Eva, Jack and Emily gather in the room christened 'Cork's Bloody Opinionated,' they come together under the assumption that it is enough to know that they are from roughly the same area and share similar backgrounds – and for a while it is… and then the games begin. By the time Laura joins them, things have already begun to spiral out of control.
To say that Chatroom is a play about teenagers would be akin to calling The Lord Of The Flies a book about children.
It is not to say that it is not a play that deals with teenagers and "teenage issues" but that it is also about so much more – about pain, struggle and clawing to be free of one’s own skin, about the unravelling of trust, about a young man's strange, slow slide into the darkest corners of his soul, and of hope – hope that he can live with what he finds there.
Dark, and miserably morbid as it may sound, Chatroom produces hilarity a surprisingly satisfying number of times.
Absurd and amusing pop culture references to Britney Spears and J.K Rowling, detailed analysis of orange oompa loompas and a possibly disturbed Willy Wonka, never fail to draw a laugh from the audience. Ironically, Jim, even when narrating the tragic tale that is his life, uses humour to wonderful effect.
The fact that Chatroom has a young, relatively inexperienced cast actually increased its appeal the last time around; not least because it was a cast with real talent and consistent appeal.
Director, Tracy Holsinger, however, says she's not content to rest on their collective laurels.
In a move shrouded in mystery, she has had her actors swap roles, and has tinkered a little with the interpretations of characters as well. She says that she intends to explore more thoroughly the idea of complete anonymity – when you're online, you can be anything and say anything, invent entire personas and lie through your teeth… and so can everyone else. Consider yourself forewarned. The chatroom waits.
The Mind Adventures Theatre Company's production of Chatroom is directed by Tracy Holsinger and stars Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke, Brandon Ingram, Tehani Chitty, Erasha Sugathapala, Ruvin de Silva and Subha Wijesiriwardene.
The play will be staged from the June 27-29 from 8pm onwards at the Punchi Theatre. Tickets priced at 350/- are available at the theatre itself. Sponsors for the event are Suntel, JWT, TimTam, TNL Radio and ETV. For more information, check out Tracy's blog: http://daytripper.wordpress.com