Curtis Lawson would rather live in his bedroom, designing fantasy girls online, than get a job or even a girlfriend. His father has other ideas. He wants a proper son and a grandson too, and doesn't hide his frustration with his son's computer obsession.
Joi works for Significant Others, an online escort agency. She's hired by Curtis' dad to fake a chance meeting with his son - to get him interested in real life and real women. She looks just like the fantasy girl Curtis has created on-line, and when he meets her he can't believe his luck.
But when the couple fall in love, things start to fall apart.
What happens when you meet the perfect girl? What do you do when an escort job turns into true love? What does it feel like when no-one knows what's real anymore? What happens when tragedy and revenge seem to be the only options left?
Perfect won the M.E.N. Award for Best Play of 2004 and Best design.
“...well-nigh perfect...bold in concept and execution…bracingly modern...
Brilliant…Perfect is ambitious, absorbing and challenging…” (Manchester Evening News 2004)
“…fascinating ... tell[s] stories in new ways to new audiences.” (The Guardian, 2004)
“... Stunning… Truly innovative and constantly fascinating work...” (The Stage, 2004)
30th April 2004
Director: John E. McGrath
Writer: Kaite O'Reilly
Designer: Paul Clay
Movement Direction: Benji Reid
Cast: Sean Cernow, Andy Williams, Inika Leigh Wright
REVIEWS IN FULL
Manchester Evening News
Thursday May 6, 2004
Since its re-opening under the artistic directorship of John McGrath, the remit at the ground-breaking Contact Theatre has been to explore new ways of creating relevant, exciting theatre.
Perfect, their only in-house production this season, is, as it happens, a well-nigh perfect expression of this policy.
Bold in concept and execution, years in gestation yet changing up until the very last minute, sometimes transparently flying by the seat of its pants in performance, Perfect is an uniquely exhilarating experience and even its undeniable flaws, paradoxically, help it to make its impact.
Directed by McGrath, and the fruit of a unique collaboration between British writer Kaite O'Reilly and US-based designer/visual artist Paul Clay, that has been ongoing for nearly four years it explores such age-old concerns as fantasy vs. reality, father vs. son and love vs. money, but places them in a bracingly modern, forward-looking context.
Curtis Lawson (Salford University trained Sean Cernow) is a young man who prefers to live in his bedroom, designing fantasy girls online, rather than get a job or real life girlfriend.
His single-parent father David (Andy Williams) is so frustrated by his inability to pass on his own, more "Jack The Lad" approach to life to his offspring that he decides to secretly hire a real, flesh and blood girl Joi (Inika Leigh Wright), who looks like just like the fantasy girl Curtis has created on-line, from online escort agency, Significant Others, to fake a chance meeting with his son.
But, when the two fall in love, things start to fall apart.
Brilliant, if occasionally baffingly, blurring the line between real life and online life, Perfect is ambitious, absorbing and challenging.
The Stage and Television Today
Is fantasy preferable to reality?
That's the question posed in Kaite O'Reilly's tale of cyber-crossed lovers, Contact's only in-house production this year, which is directed by its artistic director John E McGrath.
It is crucial for the success of this work that the design involves the audience in a domain between real and virtual worlds. Paul Clay, an American hi-tech video artist, succeeds by cleverly juxtaposing fantasy and reality on a futuristic set dominated by video screens. His brilliant combination of real and perfect people, in their ideal worlds, is dramatically realised simultaneously on screen and on stage through a mixture of text and visuals.
Sean Carnow plays young Curtis Lawson, who would rather design his online dream girl than cope with a real one, while Andy Williams is also good as his well-meaning but bullying dad. Inika Leigh Wright gives a stunning performance as Joi, a hard-bitten internet escort agency girl who rediscovers her humanity.
McGrath speeds up the pace as complications arise when the young couple fall in love - the scene where father and Joi battle for custody of the unborn child is one of the dramatic highlights.
This truly innovative and constantly fascinating work definitely deserves a wider audience.
Monday May 10, 2004
Walking into the theatre feels as if you have been transported to a virtual world, inhabited by Curtis, a young man who spends his life at screens and online creating perfect fantasy women. This is a disappointment to his single father, Dave, who would like his son to be a real Jack the Lad. So Dave engineers a meeting between Curtis and a young prostitute called Joi, hoping to get his son involved in the real world.
This is not a play in any traditional sense, more a collaboration between writer Kaite O'Reilly, designer Paul Clay and director John E McGrath. ... integrates the technology fully into the narrative rather than merely using it as a flashy add-on. It actually starts to serve the storytelling, and the show blossoms from being just a collection of ideas into a real examination of fantasy and reality and the dead-end that is parenthood if all you want to see from your children is an improved version of yourself. This show won't please anyone in search of a well-made play, but the Exchange and Library offer plenty of that in Manchester, leaving the way clear for Contact to continue its quest to tell stories in new ways to new audiences.
Photos by Stacey Potter