ACCORDING to comedian Jenny Eclair, the internet is the “biggest graffiti wall in the sky”. And it is this that has provided her daughter, Phoebe Eclair-Powell and director Jamie Jackson with inspiration and material for their first joint play.
WINK looks at the implications of chatting online, the perils, pitfalls and surprises, and whether we ever know who we are talking to when we do.
Using music, movement and dialogue, it follows the lives of John, a 27-year-old teacher and Mark a 16-year-old pupil and explores what happens when their worlds collide on the web.
It has taken Phoebe and Jamie two years to bring it to the stage and they will do so at Theatre503 in Battersea from Tuesday March 10 for a four week run.
“It’s been a real labour of love,” says Phoebe warmly. “It’s been a bit like a delayed birth as we’ve had this baby for a while, writing and researching it so we’re both nervous and hugely excited that it’s finally going to be staged!
"The story is told through the eyes of a pupil and teacher and how their lives end up becoming more intertwined than is appropriate.
"There are a lot of twists and turns so it’s dramatic and intense but there is also humour in it and we are really proud of it.”
Although the play looks at some of the pitfalls of going online, Phoebe insists it’s not about demonising the internet.
“It’s not a warning play,” she says. “We learn so much from using the internet - and it's such a great and immediate way of communicating and connecting with people.
“But the story is also about chance, fantasy and reality and about the disappointment that comes with the realisation that the reality never lives up to the fantasy."
And Jamie agrees.
“It felt like an opportunity to show to the audience what the reality of going online is like, rather than lecturing people on the dangers,” he says.
"When we did our research we wanted to find those who had had positive experiences of using the internet. We are all familiar with the negative stories but a lot of people who are using it are doing so as a force for good."
“It also shows what it is to be a teenager now and how we as a generation are flailing around finding solace on the internet,” adds Phoebe.
“I’m obsessed with Facebook and Instagram but technology is moving on so fast – some of the teenagers we spoke to are so much more technologically literate than we are and some of the sites they are going on are ones I have never gone on or heard about - it's frightening!
“There is part of you that’s aware of how mad it all is and there are horror stories to make you wary but how do you police a generation who are so adept at using that technology?
“The internet and social media have made communication so immediate and open - there's no privacy - my mum calls it the biggest graffiti wall in the sky which is so true."
Jamie who lives in West Norwood and Phoebe who lives in Camberwell met two years ago at a speed dating night for writers and directors after Phoebe had finished the Royal Court Young Writers Programme and “clicked” immediately.
“We realised we were on the same wavelength and began bouncing ideas off each other,” says Jamie.
“At the time there was a lot in the news about the Miley Cyrus twerking story, Ask FM and the dangers of being on the web, how much people discover by being on the internet and what’s real and what’s not.
"We began to do some research with teenagers – what forums they used, what they used the internet for – and the idea for the play went from there."
Phoebe was chosen to be part of the Battersea theatre's 503Futures programme where she wrote and workshopped WINK and the pair were also given help and support by the Old Vic New Voices programme.
Although it was two years in the making, they say the themes are still relevant.
"What I think is really important is that we are not trying to say you should get rid of the internet but that we all need to be more aware and educated because technology moves so fast it's hard to keep up," says Jamie.
“We can’t turn it off – it’s here and here to stay so we just need to be mindful of how we use it.”
And Phoebe adds: "We are not trying to impose a parable but the message is that it’s up to you as a person how you use what’s there.
“We are trying to show through two characters that it’s down to who you are and the motivations in you - and how the ordinary can end up being extraordinary."
WINK is on at Theatre503, Latchmere Road, Battersea between Tuesday, March 10 and Saturday, April 4. Tickets cost £15 or Pay What You Can on Sundays. Visit www.theatre503.com or call the box office on 020 7978 7040.