Chris Sivewright keeps his scripts up to date, and this one had been rewritten and, I think, improved since its first performance in January: the themes seemed more tightly knit together, and it was just bad luck if the up-to-the-minute message on the staffroom whiteboard threatened to steal the show before the actors even came in. But Marcus Davis-Orram's stiff-backed and poker-throated asides from Niles's end of the table played off well against David Gurney's, er, cockiness - the body language under Ben's end of the table was enough to reduce any victim of PUA to flashbacks, which at least for an actor, and in a role like this one, has to be a compliment.
Given Niles's well-advised choice of disembodied cyberspace to stage his revenge, his move into physical violence - which at the performance I saw unfortunately proved considerably less physical than the previous visual contrast of presences from opposite sides of the stage - appeared superfluous as well as out of character, and might have been omitted to everyone's advantage. Nerds don't need to confront jocks with their own weapons these days, and insofar as this is the play's point it might as well get all the emphasis possible. Room for yet another revision, perhaps?
This is an interesting play, and in these shifting times it's certainly no disadvantage to feel like a work-in-progress - a genre that live theatre naturally does better than television, too, so one worth developing. Heather Dunmore's play, which followed, covered so many aspects of its theme as to finish feeling comprehensive and yet open-ended as well; another family gathering round the dining-table on another day might just take the argument the other way. The characters' several points of view were adroitly chosen and tautly illustrated, and emerged from their individual circumstances to present a rounded, or squared, discussion. All the actors (not to mention the author) can be commended on not only drawing their own characters effectively but also, between them, evoking the unseen presence in the next room, so that we cared what happened to him. If I had a quibble it was that Kate got ready for bed to the extent of pyjamas, slippers and dressing-gown, but without removing her enormous earrings - which were surely not 'sleepers' in any sense!
In both plays an unseen character was central to a literally tabled debate - one a confrontation between media, the other purely words, but both related to character; and both debates presented, to paraphrase the Shakespearean Henry IV, the oldest struggles in the newest kind of ways. Universal and topical at once, then: a well balanced double bill, of plays whose futures in the world I'll follow with interest.