Review: In Conversation with Graham Norton
Photo by Liam Fraser Richardson
"It's a catch-22 situation.
I'm never going to know for certain that I'm gay".
Mark is finding life tough and isolating so the decision is easy.
He's going to chat to Graham Norton.
Graham is easy to talk to.
Graham talks to people as a profession.
Graham is just a photo.
With this photo of Graham Norton in front of him, Mark can talk openly about his concerns about sex, his sexuality, his family and his school life.
Maybe life won't be so confusing if he can verbalise all his thoughts without worrying about being judged.
He may even discuss the incident with the cat.
Batavia Productions & Jasper Plays presents this look at what it's like to feel totally alone in this modern era of the World Wide Web and where this loneliness can lead you.
This debut play by Simon Perrott is an emotional and funny journey.
Why don't you come along for the ride and listen to Mark?
Note: Graham Norton does not appear in this production.
When we need to hear the innermost thoughts swirling around a character's mind, there's often no better way than through a monologue.
That format, though, can sometimes seem unrealistic unless the writer or director can find a means for us to hear what the character is thinking without it appearing contrived and odd, distracting from the overall intention.
Writer Simon Perrott cleverly and neatly deals with this problematic issue by having his character talk to a famous person - one who seems a sympathetic listener and not easily shocked.
The famous person in question here is none other than TV chat show and radio host Graham Norton - who actually never appears in the show, not even as a disembodied voice from the ether.
This set-up also allows the central character to be set apart from other influences and people, so that we assume what we hear is true.
Mark is a seventeen year-old, still at school and sharing a home with his twin-sister - who he claims is a "bitch" - and his parents.
He's wrestling with his sexuality and how that impinges on the rest of his life - particularly his relationships with fellow students.
As Mark's story unfolds, we discover an isolated young man, bullied at school, with negative self-esteem, who feels "worthless" and that he doesn't "fit in".
With no friends to turn to for peer support and rejecting his father's blundering attempts at parental concern - perhaps with some justification - he's left floundering on his own trying to cope with his life.
It's easy to assume that, once teenagers reach the mid-teens, they are worldly-wise and no longer in need of support or guidance, particularly in the internet age where advice and information is readily available at the touch of a screen.
But Simon Perrott's moving and perceptive monologue clearly shows that is not the case and, in particular, that they need to verbalise their inner feelings in order to confront and deal with them appropriately and effectively - no easy matter, of course.
In an astutely-pitched and eminently watchable and compelling portrayal, Jay Parsons provides an instantly likeable character, one that we readily warm to and understand.
Naive in some ways, Mr Parsons' Mark is also clued-up and knowledgeable in other areas, but that doesn't stop his thoughts bursting unexpectedly and inappropriately into reality.
Those moments allow for some very funny incidents - particularly one involving a cat called Kylie (don't ask!).
Joseph Winters' sensitive and enabling direction sensibly relies on Simon Perrott's highly credible and well-written script, and allows Jay Parsons' considerable talent and emotional intelligence to describe - almost effortlessly - a recognisably 'real' and endearing character.
That all makes for satisfying viewing in terms of production values but, as Mark's plans get darker and more alarming towards the end, the monologue puts the ball firmly in the audience's court by asking us to consider what society must do to support young people through life-changing and life-threatening times.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Hope Theatre
Our show listing for In Conversation with Graham Norton
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