Do I Wanna Know, Nottingham New Theatre

In a world consumed with the speed of technology, with its broadcasts and social media that operate an increasingly intrusive and looming presence within society where love and loss are often at times romanticised, distorted and inflated beyond veracity. Do I Wanna Know, through moments of comedy and poignant sincerity, exposes the raw reality of what it means to love, be loved, and how one can endure the loss of both.

The play follows the lives of James (a writer) and Evelyn (a performer) who, like any love story, meet and fall in love. We watch them go through the trials and tribulations of building a relationship. Special mention however must be made of the Director’s (Felicity Chilver) and Producer’s (Sam Osborne) ingenious and brave decision to balance the success, not only of the entire production but also of the message behind the play, on the hands of audience participation. As a result of this participation we were no longer observers of a James and Evelyn story but members, fellow lovers, immersed within a life that could easily be our own.

The audience seating was in a horseshoe with tables and chairs that reminded me more of a night out at a comedy club where the spectators were able to see each other on all sides rather than the traditional seating of a theatre. It soon became clear as to why this decision was made. Once we were all seated we eagerly awaited for the play to start when to my surprise James (played by Ted Marriott) came crashing through the entrance door saying ‘sorry I’m late’, causing an eruption of giggles from the audience. This audience acknowledgement continued throughout the play where here James, positioned as a teacher of a creative writing workshop, asked members of his class (us the audience) to read out pieces of creative writing that “we had written” or later on where, we were not only the audience of Do I Wanna Know but that of one of Evelyn’s (played by Sophie Walton) ‘performances’.

AUDIENCE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT CONTINUED THROUGHOUT THE PLAY!

Of course, at first the audience were confounded by this; timid, unsure and maybe a bit worried about making a fool of themselves. I can’t speak for others but after the first audience interaction I thought to myself ‘Oh God, I hope no one picks me out – I know I’ll do something stupid’. This break down of the barriers between the audience and actors meant that we weren’t just laughing at the play but at ourselves as we could relate to the events that were happening on stage: every member of the audience couldn’t help but laugh when Evelyn asked us if we had ever done something stupid or something embarrassing, because of course we have.

This interaction had a widely successful impact on the play, especially at moments where we were brought down from high comedy to intense pain and sorrow. This dramatic change, played with our emotions, as they were just as sudden as a real break-up or of losing a mother – these heartaches and devastations were felt as if they were our own.

HEARTACHES AND DEVESTATIONS WERE FELT AS IF THEY WERE OUR OWN!

The ending of the play, where the lighting (a cold colour), sound (a voice over of a voicemail from Evelyn to James), music (a stereotypical sad love ballad) all worked in harmony with the action on stage – James sitting alone, listening to Evelyn saying she’d never forget him – encapsulated the resilience displayed throughout as it reminded us that in light of difficulty, of loss, we are capable of endurance and that there is always hope for the future.

Overall, Do I Wanna Know is a hilarious yet thought-provoking play that everyone would enjoy and relate to, addressing issues that are universal and eternal. There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t feel conflicted – of wanting to laugh but also cry out in sympathy and solidarity. It was excellent and one of the best plays I’ve seen at Nottingham New Theatre.

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