There is a lot to get through in The Internet Was Made For Adults. Following the stories of four twenty-somethings trying to navigate through porn, WhatsApp, not so much sex, lots of sex, pain during sex, Tinder, dating etc, there is just a huge amount of stuff to fit in a 70 minute show. One wonders whether concentrating on a couple of storylines and exploring them in detail might have given a better result than trying to squeeze everything in, leaving a couple of stories underdeveloped and overflowing bits strewn across the floor.
There’s a definite sense of Fleabag around The Internet Was Made For Adults. Very much porn-and-sex-positive, the show starts off with a barrage of social media notifications, email alerts and emoji after emoji. It’s clear from the very start that the cast are phenomenal – never missing a beat, they stride their way through the onslaught with a precision and a clarity that is hard to match. However, the stage itself seems to be working against them. The set is made of four light-up boxes and four panels hung at the back that divide the space into strips rather a la Anatomy of a Suicide, keeping each actress caught in a bizarre cycle of stepping forwards and backwards when it’s her turn to speak, not able to stray over her line. This very abstract way of setting the piece firstly distances us from any particular locations (it’s only really clear around 40 minutes in that the girls are housemates) and being (quite literally) stuck in their ruts means that there’s a difficulty getting them to form any realistic, emotional relationships. Stylish, yes, but the blocking rattles over the points of plot in a way that obscures the reasons behind the style.
Despite these early teething issues, the play very much comes in to its own when one of the characters, Freya, is revealed to have a syndrome that means having sex is incredibly painful. The consequent 10 minute discussion about the societal reception of male vs female sexual pain is a highlight of the show, and where all the bits of style, sound and acting magically come together in a smorgasbord of theatrical loveliness. But there’s so much to discuss and not enough time – 10 minutes later the piece dashes on to look at dating, cabaret and reliance on your female friends before the 70 minutes is up.
All The Internet Was Made For Adults needs is a fresh eye, a good cut and a decision made on which stories need to be told and which can wait until another time. The acting is tight, the design stylish, but the whole piece seems like it’s fighting a losing battle until it finds either a form to fit the story, or a story to fit the form.