There’s a thrilling, thought-provoking play to be written about the vituperative vengeance of social media, but Chris England’s new comedy Twitstorm definitely isn’t it.
Guy (Jason Merrells) is a lovably scornful TV host, whose cosy London life is turned upside down when an illegal immigrant (Tom Moutchi) arrives at his home claiming to be the starving sub-Saharan African that Guy has long sponsored via direct debit.
An inappropriate joke and an accidental tweet later, and suddenly there’s a press pack at the door and a petition to have Guy sacked gaining momentum online.
England’s concern – Twitter’s unchecked tendency to loudly and damagingly take offence at anything – is a compelling one, but any sophistication in his argument is lost in a mess of implausible plotting, feeble humour, tonal inconsistency and faintly offensive stereotyping. What should be a daring examination of liberal morality ends up the theatrical equivalent of a middle-aged Top Gear fan moaning about “political correctness gone mad”.
Jonathan Lewis’ spritely production is enlivened by several decent performances – from Justin Edwards as Guy’s nice-but-nervous scriptwriter and from Ben Kavanagh as a preening cultural commentator – and makes a commendable stab at invention, with scrolling Twitter feeds projected above Anthony Lamble’s living room set. Ultimately, though, it can’t escape England’s staggeringly misjudged play.