Alan Gordon, Buffer, Edinburgh Fringe, Facebook, Grindr, Homosexuality, Lauren Hurwood, Nicholas Nunn, Ross Donnachie, Social Media, Spaces on North Bridge, Technology, Theatre Review, Thrive Theatre, Twitter
[The following contains spoilers.]
Alan Gordon’s new play “Buffer” is presented by Thrive Theatre, an independent Edinburgh outfit, and it is currently established at theSpace on North Bridge. It is a play about how we are all going mad with technology. Craig (Ross Donnachie) is conventionally laddish on Facebook and Twitter, but in reality, when disconnected from his Friends and Followers, he is a compulsive homosexual. The play relates the events which lead up to his enforced outing on Instagram, via a treacherous selfie.
As Evelyn Waugh had once demonstrated in Vile Bodies (1930), new technology comes across as most chilling when it is shown cold, with its users oblivious to how alien it actually is. Vile Bodies was, at least according to Waugh himself, the first novel in which the majority of the dialogue was spoken on the telephone. The best way to satirise Twitter is simply to depict people using it. Craig’s lover and nemesis Spencer (Nicholas Nunn) is indeed as happy on Twitter as a duckling on a pond, but Craig and Sophie (Lauren Hurwood) persist in distrusting this element. At one point Sophie, brandishing a dictionary, bursts into flimsy oratory about her generation’s declining vocabulary.
The danger of aiming at contemporary issues is of not quite hitting the target. Kids who are eighteen today will have never known life without the internet and they will lack my own generation’s detachment from this technology, or our ability to measure it against an earlier world. The homophobia which Spencer experiences in “Buffer” is admittedly authentic, but it is also mildly dated. Hardly anybody says “queer” or “nancy boy” these days and most Scottish communities have moved on from the spite behind such insults.
But “Buffer” is not a bad play. As I have indicated, the cast are given various heavy loads to carry, but they carry them very ably. Nicholas Nunn is allocated a ton since his character, Spencer, is supposed to be camp in that simultaneously infuriating and delightful vein. Nunn carries it off and Spencer is a vivid creation who brings a lot of immediacy to the story. He has that nasal Edinburgh campness, which bubbles and gurgles, and “Buffer” is lavish with this resource. The play’s ending could be considered evasive, but it also avoids making everything too easy. Is Craig being dishonest about his sexuality or does he still have a reasonable right to privacy in the internet age? Is Spencer’s campness just socially inept and is he really outing Craig just to leave somebody else as lonely as himself? In the coup de grace, this is at least original: a selfie with a worthwhile story behind it.