W.O.K.E. Up!, the latest play written and directed by Anna Longaretti, is a theatrical gem that combines humour, wit, and a touch of sobriety to navigate the turbulent waters of contemporary woke culture. The play, which took seven years to develop, unfolds as a tongue-in-cheek comedy with a simple yet fascinating plot centred around Richard Eden, brilliantly portrayed by Toby Wynn-Davies. As Eden emerges from a coma and returns to his workplace, the W.O.K.E. advertising firm, he finds himself in a world where his ideas are now considered irrelevant and, in some cases, offensive.
The brilliance of Longaretti's writing lies in her ability to tackle a myriad of weighty contemporary issues with precision and humour. The plot touches upon topics ranging from equality and diversity, to social justice, the environment, mental health, and gender pronouns, encapsulating nearly every buzzword associated with woke culture. What makes this play unique is its approach to these touchy topics – it doesn't delve too seriously into any one issue, allowing room for the audience's interpretation and providing breathing space between the laughs.
The first act unfolds rapidly, presenting contrasting perspectives from two generations of society – the old represented by Eden and the former intern who is now a staff member Michael Dobbie, played by the talented Angus Roughley. As a Gen Z member, Dobbie attempts to convey to Eden the irrelevance of his ideas in the current cultural landscape. Caught in the crossfire is Kay Milby, played by Abigail Moore, the co-founder of the firm, who grapples with the evolving nature of advertising – a shift from selling products to engaging with consumers – while also holding onto her own beliefs and values.
Longaretti's writing is nuanced, offering the audience a balanced and comedic exploration of the clash between old and new ideologies. The play effortlessly delivers punchlines, lands jokes with precision, and maintains impeccable comic timing throughout. The narrative provides a refreshing and humorous take on the complexities of woke culture, ensuring that it remains an engaging and easy watch.
The characterisations in W.O.K.E. Up! are commendable, with Wynn-Davies capturing the essence of a defensive, stubborn, and patronizing Gen X individual, while Roughley embodies the emotional, extreme, and passionate traits of a Gen Z personality. The chemistry and banter between the actors enhances the overall viewing experience, making the play both entertaining and thought-provoking. While the first act flows seamlessly, the second act, although still humorous, becomes slightly repetitive and heavy-handed in its treatment of issues such as diversity and racism, bordering on the edge of preachiness. Despite this, the overall play remains engaging, supported by solid performances from Kate Barry as the firm’s client Anya Schmidt and Chenise Lynette as the eager barista Gabrielle, both of whom offer essential secondary commentary.
W.O.K.E. Up! is a delightfully hilarious exploration of woke culture, resonating with audiences who find the depicted issues all too familiar. The result is a two-hour easy watch drama that not only entertains but also leaves the audience with ample food for thought as they exit the theatre. Longaretti successfully navigates the delicate balance between humour and social commentary, making W.O.K.E. Up! a must-watch for those seeking a thoughtful yet amusing exploration of contemporary societal challenges.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by The Ocular Creative