Nov 1 2023 | By More

★★★★★    Flipping Fantastic

Summerhall: Tue 31 Oct – Sat 4 Nov 2023
Review by Tom Ralphs

Racheal Ofori’s FLIP! – at Summerhall to Saturday – combines comedy with social commentary in a play which successfully brings the breathless charge of social media to the stage.

A collaboration between leading independent producer Fuel and Newcastle’s award winning, artist led performance space Alphabetti Theatre, FLIP! demonstrating the strengths of both organisations in encouraging and developing new talent and making productions that connect with a wide range of audiences.

Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce in FLIP! Pic: Tristram Kenton

Ofori’s script focuses on Carleen and Crystal and their adventures in social media as the two friends go from making short videos for a small army of followers, to becoming breakout sensations and beyond.

In doing so, it takes in our relationship with social media as consumers and creators, looks at the links between the addictiveness and ethics of the companies behind the most successful apps, and also explores the increasing separation between the real person and their cyber persona fuelled by the rise of AI.

It does all of this without ever losing sight of the satire and parody at the heart of the script, saving the more reflective moments for the end of the play, and allowing more telling observations about social issues to fall out naturally within the dialogue.

fascinating combinations

The pre-show soundtrack is a mash-up of the likes Bohemian Rhapsody, Shape of You, and Old Town Road, which acts as the ideal backing track as sound designer Eliyana Evans slices, dices and repackages them into fascinating combinations that each last less than a minute before morphing into something else.

Jadesola Odunjo in FLIP! Pic: Tristram Kenton

That frantic momentum is maintained by Carleen (Leah St Luce) and Crystal (Jadesola Odunjo) with an opening routine where the words and movement are the embodiment of the social media apps they probably can’t name directly for fear of legal action.

The stand ins are ‘WePipe’ and ‘FLIP!’. The former is the established app where people make videos and get real, the latter is the new upstart that deals in short videos and offers the trade off between instant fame and handing over your digital identity to a company that seems designed to keep conspiracy theorists in work speculating on their real intentions.

razor-sharp direction

At breath-taking speed, under the razor-sharp direction of Emily Aboud, St Luce and Odunjo create videos, respond to other content creators and handle rapid rises and falls in their own popularity on both of the platforms.

Anna Robinson’s minimal set design allows the actors to take centre stage. The pace of the script and performance captures the pace that careers are made and trashed, with every word and gesture likely to elevate you to a new level of success or see you condemned and cancelled for offending the wrong person.

Leah St Luce in FLIP! Pic: Tristram Kenton

The dynamic between St Luce and Odunjo is superb as they go from best friends, united in WePipe as a way to escape from boring daytime jobs and the absence of the careers their education deserves, to internet sensations aware of their popularity but not really understanding how fragile it is.

As they head in different directions, with Carleen’s meteoric rise contrasting with Crystal’s flatlining career, it is less about the end of a friendship and more about the sacrifice of identity and the cynicism of marketing in a FLIP! world where grief is accompanied by a note of sponsorship by a tissue company.

sharply observed

It’s sharply observed both at a macro and micro level; the big picture satire is complemented by pinpoint accurate parodies of influencer tropes. At the same time, it neither condemns nor condones the motives and lifestyles of influencers. It understands their reasons while mocking the way they are manifested in a way that’s instantly recognisable and never slips over into overt caricature.

A superb production on every level, it deserves to live on far longer than the career of the average influencer.

Running time: one hour and 15 minutes (no interval)
Summerhall, TechCube 0, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Tue 31 Oct – Sat 4 Nov 2023
Evenings: 7pm.
Tickets and details: book here.

FLIP! On tour:

Soho Theatre, Soho Upstairs, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE
Tue 7 – Sat 25 November 2023
Mon – Sat 7pm; Sat mats (relaxed perf): 3pm.
Tickets and details: book here.

Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce in FLIP! Pic: Tristram Kenton


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