REVIEW: Chatroom (Greenside @ Infirmary Street) ★★★★
Chatroom by Enda Walsh was first performed at the National Theatre in 2006; it is a play about teenagers, insecurity, mental health and online bullying. It is being performed at Greenside @ Infirmary Street by a young cast from Les Siege of Herons.
Six teenagers communicate anonymously online in chatrooms. William and Jack argue about whether children’s stories create false expectations for young people while Eva and Emily bond over their disappointment at how Britney Spears shattered the dreams of many young women. Meanwhile, Jim is chatting with Laura about his depression and suicidal thoughts. Laura tries to help as she has experienced this herself and now volunteers to support others online by “listening but not giving advice”. But Jim wants advice so he joins a chatroom for local teenagers to see if anyone will help him. The rules of the room are that real names aren’t used so everyone can speak freely but this doesn’t stop them judging each other, often harshly. What follows is a chilling representation of online bullying that leads to a final scene that’s hard to watch.
The cast sit on plastic chairs and deliver their lines directly to the audience, reminding us that they are behind their screens, typing rather than speaking their words. They carry their chairs around the stage as their conversations move between chatrooms.
The play is not easy to watch but that’s the point. In a world where teenagers spend hours of their lives online through computers and smart phones, it’s important to remember the darker side of this access to the world wide web.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans