Lockdown review: Stay Safe

In the spirit of continued inventiveness under these odd times, this spooky drama from New Perspectives takes place entirely over WhatsApp. The audience observes as a string of messages, gifs, images, audio and videos move from the mundane (“is it trackies for PE tomorrow?”) to the downright disturbing.

We are eavesdropping on a parents’ group – who start to feel they are being infiltrated and spied on. One of their number, Flo, reports her son met a strange man at school, one ‘Mr Mathers’. Slowly it appears this may not be the full story as a sense of unease and eventual all-out hostility and panic descend upon the group.

The delivery of the drama via a messaging service works very well. A flurry of numbers, names, and interjections builds a picture of a support group who are just as quick to turn on one of their number as to show concern for them.

Although supposedly based on a real story, this is a supernatural piece playing on ghosts, witches, and the observer/the observed. Two of the children, Flo’s son Arthur and Ali’s daughter Rachel, take their own spotlight, but we can never be sure who is really typing the messages.

The characterisations are strong: the worried friend, the breezy interloper, the dad who plays detective, the mum who whips up hysteria and mob justice, the calming voice of reason. The media is sparingly used but adds to the tension – mysterious snatches of sound and video, clever use of everyday apps like Google Maps.

Jack McNamara writes and directs this piece, with design from Joe Strickland of Chronic Insanity (themselves huge innovators in this online theatre space). It exploits every parent’s worst fears as well as providing hugely satisfactory chills to its captive audience.

Stay Safe is available until 31 October as part of English Touring Theatre’s Signal Fires. Book here for tickets.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Stay Safe.

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