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Theatre Review Connection problems at the dawn of the internet era

Eros
The White Bear, Kennington

AS EVER, the London fringe is awash with new plays, with most under-resourced and some derivative.

But many are packed with creative energy and a passion for topical issues and one such is Kevin Mandry’s intense and thought-provoking three-hander Eros. Unlike now, when online imagery and thinking shapes our lives, the play is set in the mid-90s when the internet, in its infancy, was only a shadow of what is to come.

While it may look at first glance like a simple “Me Too’ story, it goes beyond the casual abuse of women to explore the terrible impact on men who seek only perfection and gratification to the detriment of any real and loving relationships.

Its protagonist Ross Black (the formerly self-styled Jet Black) has made a good living photographing women. But what started out as a snare for pretty young girls has become a life-sapping obsession that can never be satiated.

Past his prime and barely afloat, he suddenly receives a visit from Kate, a woman from the past. The play's theme — not so much about love, as the title might suggest but about how it is jeopardised in a world where models of physical perfection and instant sexual imagery are available to all — resonantly emerges.  

Felicity Jolly gives a luminous performance as Ross's assistant Terri. A tender, homeless girl, she has discovered a way of making friends on the internet — there’s a novelty — and some of the '90s detail is almost comic, with the Rubik’s cube, pagers, CD players and dial-up internet hogging the phone line.

In the second half, there's a welcome burst of energy as Ross and Kate engage in a playful rebonding session to a David Bowie track. And there are stretches of beautifully lyrical prose that quieten the audience into rapt attention and make us feel that something real and important is being shared with us.

Pace-wise, the production is at times patchy, particularly in the first half, and it takes a while to grasp where Kate is really coming from. Does she hate this man or love him? And though she asserts she’s come for justice, the tension often drops early on amid routine bickering and casual conversation.

Overall, though, it’s a clever play. And its premise will have you deep in discussion long afterwards.

Runs until September 15, box office: whitebeartheatre.co.uk

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