At a time when, around the world, we’re brutally isolated and divided by a killer disease, and when we’re desperately reaching out for alternative ways to connect, this play by US writer Lauren Gunderson offers much-needed cultural succour. Edward Hall’s production, performed by Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Zach Wyatt, is streaming this week on Instagram and originally played at Hampstead Theatre back in 2018, when none of us had even heard of Covid-19. A sweet, sensitive two-hander, it’s about a teenage odd couple who meet over a high-school Walt Whitman project and discover that they are bound together by more than just a shared appreciation for the power and profundity of his poetry. It’s smart-talking, touching and gently comic, with an eleventh-hour twist that you just might see coming.
Caroline is snarky, arty, with a love of the stars and of photography. A life-threatening liver disorder means she’s confined to her bedroom, where she studies remotely via the Internet. Her schoolmate Anthony is sporty, self-assured, puppyish, and bursts into her isolated existence irrepressibly determined that their joint presentation will be stellar. As he persuades the truculent Caroline to share her fears and his passion for literature and jazz, the play emphasises the importance of finding joy in the sensual and in life’s exquisite small things – and it reminds us of how art and the impulse of creativity intersect with our common humanity. Ordinarily perhaps it would seem slight. Right now – watched alone, on a small screen, in the knowledge that whatever we’re feeling, others out there are feeling too – it offers a simple but invaluable comfort: the digital equivalent of an arm around the shoulder, or a hand reaching out to ours.