On the Hannah Playhouse stage there is a standard live band set up and the lights bathe the stage in a warm purple/blue glow, which I can only describe as bisexual lighting. Morel enters, followed by musical director/drummer/backing vocalist Jake Pickering and bassist/backing vocalist Kat Ades, and they open with a number fittingly titled ‘It’s a Lovely Day to be Online’. It’s fun, upbeat, and relatable as Morel sings about getting dumped and trying to find solace in the online world when what’s going on inside is too much.
The show follows a classic musical comedy format. Between each song Morel is cracking jokes and elaborating on some of the songs, giving us a moment to breathe between each high energy number - although there’s some gorgeous ballads that aren’t to be missed. I think my favourite song had to be (forgive me if this isn’t the name) ‘Part-time Lovers’ which details the trials and tribulations of a long distance relationship. The song itself is excellent, and the lyrics keep making me go ‘aww’ (but not in a sad way). I find myself thinking about my own experience with long distance, and based on the reactions of other audience members, they must be too.
The musical talent on display is undeniable. Ades and Pickering work in tandem with Morel, creating a cohesive and clean sound. What falls short for me is the content itself. There’s so much on the internet to talk about, too much even, and while I agree that our dependency on our phones is a huge issue, I think there could have been more nuance in the discussion around it. References to keyboard warriors and snowflakes feel slightly dated, perhaps adding some parts about what the pandemic did to us, or even iPad babies would make it feel a bit more fresh. The moments between songs offer a great opportunity to contextualise the content, and I’d just like them to feel more like a chat than a lecture. In saying that, I’m part of the weird generation that still had dialup when we were kids, but were around to get a smartphone and access to high speed internet when our brains were still pretty mushy; so I recognise that I might have a slightly different relationship with my phone than the show’s target audience.
Morel and his band create such a fun atmosphere, even in the moments where things aren’t so fun. One of the highlights is a not so fun moment where Morel is spiraling accompanied by the drums that seem to mirror each interrupting thought. These moments of seriousness are excellent, although I think they could do with a slower build to make them really pay off. Morel’s honesty with himself and the audience adds so much to what could just be a silly show about the internet, and with a bit more development I think it could be a hilariously poignant show.
A Lovely Day to be Online confronts you with the realities of how bad it’s gotten, and Morel doesn’t claim to have the answer, but what he said at the end stuck with me. As he’s recounting a pretty awful story, he reminisces on going to a show. He highlights the simple humanity of ‘sitting in a dark room full of strangers trying not to feel so lonely’, just like all of us sitting in the dark theatre together. There’s a beautiful sense of unity he creates with that one line.
Go along for the music, stay for the commentary, and don’t forget to turn off your phone!
A Lovely Day to be Online closes Friday 3rd February at 7pm in the Hannah Playhouse.