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Random Selfies review at Ovalhouse, London – ‘charming, if lightweight’

Natalia Hinds in Random Selfies at Ovalhouse, London. Photo: Simon Annand Natalia Hinds in Random Selfies at Ovalhouse, London. Photo: Simon Annand

Social media has changed the way we live. It’s also brought with it new insecurities. Random Selfies, produced by Ovalhouse as part of a three-year exploration into child loneliness, examines how filtering your life can make you miss what’s important.

Olivier-award winning children’s playwright Mike Kenny has created a sympathetic protagonist in Loretta, (Natalia Hinds) a lonely little girl who wants life to be as bright as her edited selfies.

Aimed at audiences aged seven to 13, Owen Calvert-Lyons’ production is sparky and colourful. Heavyweight issues are given a light touch that mostly feels appropriate though Loretta’s limited understanding of her friend Maya’s refugee status feels rushed.

Hinds makes a believable 10 year old and is a likeable storyteller. As the sole performer, all supporting characters are voiced by Hinds with little difference between elderly Mrs Thing upstairs and the cool girls at school. Calvert-Lyons’ direction is functional but lacks energy. This lethargy is in some ways realistic, showing how Loretta’s isolation weighs her down but younger audiences might find the pace too slow.

Rachana Jadhav’s illustrative set features drawings that cover Loretta’s bedroom wallpaper like a doodled-on schoolbook. The animations are well executed but distracting: the different halves of the set don’t come together making it difficult to know where to look.

Random Selfies is cute and comprehensible without being patronising, and it comes with a healthy modern moral: looking out the window can make you feel better than looking into your screen.

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Charming, if lightweight look at the loneliness of being a preteen in a busy online world