frisson (online)

Mar 1 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆   Cunning exploration

Online: Tue 28 Feb – Thu 2 Mar
Review by Allan Wilson

frisson by Production Lines is “a coming out story in two parts”, with the first part online told over Zoom this week, and the second due to be performed live in a bar at the Leith Arches next week.

Writer cmfwood’s cunning exploration of the impact of online living on relationships during the Covid lockdowns asks whether we have yet found a new normal, as we stumble towards meaningful relationships in real life.

Alan Patterson and Gregor Haddow. Screengrab Thom Dibdin

Claire Wood and co-director Ross Hope unfold two stories over Zoom. The first features two somewhat clichéd gay men meeting each other online for the first time after a series of emails and text messages.

Marcel, played by Gregor Haddow as a flamboyant, Parisian jazz musician, is looking for “inconsequential” sex rather than a long, drawn-out affair, while Alan Patterson’s Jonathan is a UK-based IT professional, who Paterson suggests is much less confident with his sexuality and uncomfortable in the world of online dating.

The second story opens with Eve (Cari Silver) experimenting with make up to achieve the right look for an online meeting, rejecting her first attempt as it gives the impression of “trying too hard”. It looks as if she is preparing for a date, but when she is joined in the Zoom call by Kai (Rhona O’Donnell) it becomes apparent that Eve is a therapist and Kai her long-term client.


cmfwood explores the dichotomy between how easy it is to lie in an online relationship and how real feelings can unintentionally be revealed.

Marcel and Jonathan have told each other inconsequential lies as their relationship developed. They question each other as they explore the possibility of a relationship, moving from a favourite setting for a date (afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches and tiny cakes for Marcel; mint tea in a café on the Bosphorus for Jonathan) to momentary frissons of excitement experienced in the past (a brief exchange with a waiter for Marcel and a warden in a wildlife reserve for Jonathan) as they tentatively inch towards meeting in real life.

Cari Silver and Rhona O’Donnell. Screengrab: Thom Dibdin

Eve and Kai both reveal more than they planned through the online exposure of their feelings in what the more interesting relationship, even though it is given less time in the play. Kai is a music-loving vegan bisexual, whose confidence has been damaged by a toxic relationship with her father. She is grateful for the support she has received from Eve in rebuilding her self-worth but now feels ready to move on.

During the pandemic, many people became familiar with using Zoom for work, keeping in touch with the family and even the occasional play. Returning to Zoom as a dramatic tool at this stage brings up a number of issues.


It can make the characters seem a little two-dimensional, rather than fully rounded, as they are almost always looking into the camera.

This can be exacerbated if the action moves between different stories, as it does in this case. The idea of usually focusing on one pairing, but occasionally showing all four of the characters simultaneously, even if their stories are not immediately connected, is an interesting use of the medium, although it doesn’t always immediately work to contrast the two stories, as it is presumably intended.

Cari Silver and Rhona O’Donnell (above) and Alan Patterson and Gregor Haddow (below). Screengrab: Thom Dibdin

One of the strongest scenes occurs when Marcel and Jonathan walk away from their cameras and perform solo dances in their individual rooms – the subdued lighting accompanying the dances is particularly effective.

Just as some people on Zoom would choose their background to reflect an aspect of personality that they wished to portray, the directors, Jennie Landels (costume) and Andy Ellis (stage manager) have created different on-screen looks to suit the personality of each character.

Jonathan and Marcel have similar backgrounds, with Jonathan being more bookish and Marcel more flamboyant. Therapist Eve has a very neutral background, while her client Kai has a more messy look.

It will be interesting to see how relationships develop when the action moves from online chat to real life encounters in frisson (in a bar).

Running time: 55 minutes.
Online via Zoom
Evenings: 8pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

frisson (in a bar)
Leith Arches, 6 Manderston Street, EH6 8LY
Tuesday 7 – Thursday 9 March 2023
Evenings: 8pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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