The average Australian spends close to 40% of their waking hours on the internet. That’s over 6 hours a day scrolling, liking, searching and connecting to other people. But what happens when your screen time begins to take up all your time. What happens when the connections you make online become more real than the connections you have in real life.
Directed by Samantha Young, You’re Not Special at Kings Cross Theatre delves into these ideas through the relationship of Ellie (Kate Skinner) and Dan (Arkia Ashraf) a couple who have recently moved in together and begin to navigate that sometimes contentious space of cohabitation. Having only recently started dating after meeting online, the couple are still discovering each other’s quirky differences, with Ellie firmly declaring that no screens of any kind are allowed in the bedroom.
Speaking of the bedroom, it forms the primary backdrop of the performance, cleverly imbuing scenes with a certain degree of vulnerability and voyeurism. Bedrooms are usually a private space, a place where we can be open and feel safe, so when something or someone invades that space it can feel like an attack. In particular, the construction and deconstruction of the bed is an incredibly clever piece of symbolism.
In the first scene we are introduced to April May (Ariadne Sgouros) who runs into Dan while both are walking their dogs. There is a mild flirtation and we are afforded the first hint of trouble ahead. April May begins to slowly infiltrate her way into the lives of the couple and what began as mild interest transforms into what appears to be a full blown obsession.
Meanwhile, Ellie begins a new job at a fast-paced advertising agency and suddenly her rule of no screens in the bedroom becomes a distant memory. We see how technology disrupts their relationship and these tools which are purported to help us stay so connected can actually be the thing that tears us apart.
The commentary on technology as a means of connection is particularly clever here, as we hear how Ellie’s ex-boyfriend has started emailing her and the Facebook profile of Dan’s high school bully has popped up on his feed. This idea of connection is so often sold to us as a positive experience but it can also be a reminder of the people and places you’d rather forget.
Playwright Sam O’Sullivan constructs some brilliant dialogue, in particular the metaphors created around the game of tetris and how anxiety is like a tetris piece that just doesn’t fit anywhere, are really thought provoking. I was deeply impressed by the powerful performances of the three protagonists who were able to navigate a line between humour and heartbreak with precision and empathy.
Without giving too much away – because I do encourage you to go and see it – there is a plot twist that I truly did not see coming. When it happens, everything just falls into place and that slight confusion I’d felt during moments of the production began to make sense. It’s as if you’ve been sitting there holding all these puzzle pieces and suddenly you can see how it all fits together and your mind is blown. The ending is powerful, poignant, slightly shocking and deeply relevant.
You’re Not Special is a clever, provocative and thoroughly insightful piece of theatre. It will make you reflect on how you live your life and question this idea of connection and what it truly means to you. So switch off your laptop, put away your phone and go see it.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
You’re Not Special is on until 20 March 2021. For more information and to buy tickets head to the King Cross Theatre website.
Reviewer attended on 11 March 2021.