Of all of the aspects of daily life in the 21st century, it’s the use of cell phone and computers to talk to other people that seems to not be registering on the theatrical consciousness. People apparently still talk almost entirely in cafes, homes, and parks; this, however, seems to be because of a limitation of the imagination. Conversations happen by text, by chat, in emails, and with the new-fangled live computer video thingie that’s straight out of The Jetsons.
The Lolita Factor is a rare play that takes on the complexity of communication in the modern world and, rather than trying to dumb it down to standard theatrical tropes, tries to push the boundary of representation so that the lives actually being lived today are being shown on stage. Fourteen year old Katie (Charlotte Green) chats on Facebook like a real kid – with a screen behind her showing her FB screen and that of the person she’s talking to.
But there’s a twist, see, because one of these people is actually spying on the other. You might even say they were grooming them. And this is real spying, with a government handler behind the screens who shows up on Skype to coach the spy in catching the perp. Only we’ve moved into more of a future dystopia where thought crime is good enough for prosecution. Will the cat catch the mouse? And who is the mouse, really?
Living in the kind of surveillance state the UK is, where people are being thrown in jail and prosecuted for posts on Twitter, this tiny movement further forward into entrapment and state manipulation (hey, they have targets to meet!) seems all too possible. The final confrontation scenes are especially hair raising: what line is about to be crossed? Will the show suddenly have a happy ending or does Winston (Joe, actually – Moj Taylor) get the rats?
For one hour, it’s all pretty intense, and while Charlotte Green doesn’t entirely convince as a pre-teen, Taylor is effortlessly believable as a possible paedo. (Tino Orsini’s turn as V, the “man behind the curtain,” suffers from being mostly done via video projection.) The cheap and sloppy set is good enough to do what it needs to; overall, time and money are well invested in this production.
(This review, originally written for The Public Reviews, was for a performance that took place on Tuesday, February 4th. It runs until 8 February.)