By Isabella Fraser
Opening onto a stage filled with people sitting online, we are viewing any typical household nowadays – everyone on their laptop or iPad, communicating with each other virtually. What this means in practice is that meeting each other in person then often becomes awkward, especially if you have exaggerated or invented parts of your life, which the internet allows you to do with ease.
Breaking from this scene are two narrators, portrayed by Roisin Diamond and Joe Johnson. These two characters are like online voyeurs, explaining what is going on with the other two characters, Isobel (Clare Ross) and Ian (Samuel Jameson), who meet at a party and end up together. However, Ian does not always tell the truth about himself and so it becomes a game between Isobel and himself to live a fantasy life. They have a safeword, as per the title, to ensure moments of truth exist but as with all good dramas, something goes wrong.
Amy Gilmartin has directed this piece assuredly, ensuring in particular that the changes from narrators to minor characters in scenes are handled seamlessly, bringing new life to characters. Indeed, the pity of the narrators is that, due to the nature of the growing onstage drama Diamond and Johnson’s appearances becomes less and less. This could be a comment on the ‘reality’ of the situation, but is not clearly defined. It would have been interesting to see how the intrusion of the narrators could have changed and adapted with the real life relationship.
Clare Ross in the lead role provides us with the multi-layered premise of her life. While she brings pathos and depth to the role allowing us to see a real person, Samuel Jameson does not have the same opportunity to do so: his character is less effusively written. It would be fascinating to heighten the ambiguity of why he seems to have a pathological inability to tell the truth.
Writer Dave Fargnoli has written an interesting piece that feels as if it is only scratching the surface of the idea at the moment: while there may be no answers, it would be intriguing to have this expand to allow more insight into the characters and allow greater interaction with the narrators. Online fantasy lives are becoming common; what this means in real life is fascinating and Fargnoli has made a thought-provoking foray into the sphere.
Safeword runs until 24 August at Sweet Venues at 17.15. Running time is 1 hour.