Leeds City College – Friday 1 November 2019
Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood
Playhouse Youth Theatre delivers Influence, their latest production, at Leeds City College which the company are currently partnering with to offer young people creative opportunities. Influence is collaborated with a consortium of partner theatres which encourage young people to work with creative professionals and to get fully involved and immersed in the process and the finished production.
Influence is written by the Scottish playwright, Andy McGregor, and is inspired by Black Mirror and Stranger Things, modern TV hits. It follows a group of typical teenagers on an unknown adventure, following a disappearance of a local boy. The journey they embark on surprisingly twists and turns and ultimately land them where they didn’t anticipate or expected. They end up in place and circumstance where data is illegally and unjustifiably collected, mind manipulation reigns, surprises are revealed in somewhat a chillingly clinical underground dystopia.
Technology is the key and the play explores how much one is influenced darkly by smart phones and the internet particularly social media, advertising, capitalist vices and celebrities. There are science fiction and comic elemental themed aspects to Influence. There is subtle linking of corporate organisations and superficial influencers and how this really affects on people especially when it comes to making crucial choices and decisions. The moral of the story suggests standing up to what one believes in is so paramount.
This excellent play is absurd, colourful, fast and outrageous. There is plenty of content packed in and all covered in a 75 minute performance. One is invited to have a think who are their real “influencers” are in their lives and how they are “influenced”. Influence definitely raises awareness and thought provokes to what is fundamental in today’s world and its current affairs.
Influence is absolutely memorable and under the direction of Gemma Woffinden the cast delivers such an excellent performance where every member of the cast has an important role to play. There is a fair bit of humour thrown in and this captivates and engages the audience who can relate to a fair number of the influences that are referenced. Irene Jade’s staging works well and the space is used full to its capacity and the staging goes well with Tim Skelly’s eclectic lighting and Jonnie Khan’s music and soundscapes. Leeds Playhouse Youth Theatre delivers another successful production to address issues that are a grave matter of concern.