Wink – Mission Theatre, Bath

When TopButton Theatre Company asked the audience of their debut production Wink to describe the performance in three words I wrote down smooth, gripping and energy. Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s modern drama examines the lives of two young men in search of an identity.

Struggling to step into the shoes of his dead father, Mark (Gabriel Howell) begins to idolise his teacher John (Matt Harwood). Looking up his teacher on Facebook leads to Mark creating his own ideal profile, through which he contacts John’s long-term girlfriend Clare. Despite appearing to have a picture perfect life to his student, John is battling his own self-doubt, approaching colleagues, students and even his girlfriend with pronounced disinterest.

Phoebe Eclair-Powell has approached the complex subject of identity in a social media age with great humour and subtlety. Wink is both art and social commentary without one side overpowering the other. Managing to tackle mental health without it sounding like a lecture, but rather by creating a gripping, granted improbable story around it, is proof of the intelligence in Eclair-Powell’s writing.

Director Faye Elvin shows such graceful handling of the script and her actors. Managing to smoothly transition between the character’s monologues while still progressing the story gives great acclaim to both directing and portrayal.

Due to the fast pace of each scene, the actors occasionally stumbled over their words, losing some of the speeches fluidity. Apart from this, I can find no fault in Howell and Harwood who particularly in the fast paced physical scenes displayed raw emotional conflict so very important to this piece.

Wink was beautifully rounded off by a well-composed soundscape and the use of projection and lighting.
In developing Wink, TopButtons worked with the charities Mind and Dyslexia in Action. Their aim is to promote conversation around topics which are often overlooked. If this poignant production is anything to go by TopButtons shows great promise in creating further thought provoking theatre.

Review by Alexandra Wilbraham