@JohnLewis: Never Knowingly Undertweeted

Aug 28 2018 | By More

★★☆☆☆     Indistinct chatter

Laughing Horse@The Newsroom (Venue 93): Thurs 2–Sun 26 Aug 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

@JohnLewis: Never Knowingly Undertweeted, from Simon Jay presented by James Seabright downstairs at the Newsroom, is a likeable but lightweight piece.

Jay’s one-hander tells the true story of an American computer science teacher who, being an early adopter, gets in first with the Twitter username @johnlewis. This leads to confusion with the well-known retail chain on the other side of the Atlantic.

Simon Jay in John Lewis, never knowingly under-tweeted.

Simon Jay in John Lewis, never knowingly under-tweeted.

And that is just about it. While this is an essentially good-natured and enjoyable show, it is almost frighteningly flimsy.

There are plenty of such productions which straddle the divide between stand-up and theatre – but this should never be an excuse for unclear thought. This is really just a connection of short scenes that are more like sketches, having little in the way of development. This is not helped by Jay constantly leaving the stage and returning in between scenes, further breaking up what is already a short show.

Unfortunately, most of the humour relies on a series of funny voices, as the various characters – a marketing executive, a harassed mother waiting in for a fridge, and so on – have little to recommend them dramatically. The one exception is the teacher himself, who at least has some depth, as well as a very convincing accent.

Something is on the verge of being said about identity or intellectual property in the digital world, but such insights are restricted to ‘you don’t know who someone is online’ and ‘you can put your phone down sometimes’ which are hardly groundbreaking. There is an inclination to present everyone involved in a relatively favourable light, which robs it of any bite.


Before long, the various characters in America and Britain start talking about ‘some guy who wants to write a play about this’, which is all the proof you need that this was an idea that never really reached the stage of proper development.

Jay is a charming and accomplished performer with a considerable stage presence, and this manages to give the whole affair a some coherence. He is also exudes considerable warmth, which makes it very difficult to dislike anything he does. However, this piece is not the ideal vehicle for those talents.

Running time 45 minutes (no interval)
Laughing Horse@The Newsroom (Venue 93), 5-11 Leith St, EH1 3AT
Thursday 2 – Sunday 26 August 2018
Daily (not Mons) at 12.00 noon.
Free, non-ticketed
Details on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/johnlewis-never-knowingly-undertweeted
Company website: www.seabrights.com/atjohnlewis/
Twitter: @thesimonjay

John Lewis can be followed at @JohnLewis
John Lewis can be contacted at @johnlewisretail


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