Tag Archives: Ailin Conant


VAULT Festival



The Vaults

Reviewed – 7th March 2019



“an innovative, disturbing, sharply relevant piece that implicates viewers in the content they watch”


If you’ve ever wondered what being online would look like as a staged performance, then Theatre Témoin are one step ahead – they’ve replicated the internet in this pitch-black comedy devised by the cast (Jonathan Peck, Louise Lee, Esmee Marsh, Yasmine Yagchi) and directed by Ailin Conant. The storylines are constantly disrupted by bite-size, gif-like moments: Peck skips by in a neon green bodysuit. Lee and Marsh wear giant duck-head masks while playing golf. Windows light up at the edges of the stage for sidebar ads. The performers often freeze, rewind, and repeat, as though someone is editing a YouTube video.

While Feed may have brilliantly captured the chaos of the internet, the play is not the total anarchy its aesthetic suggests. This show is highly intentional, skilfully crafted, and very clever about communicating its message, which condemns fake internet activism: the people who vie for followers and fame by generating shallow sympathy (crying emoji) for tragic causes.

The story centres around a news article about a murdered four-year-old Palestinian boy named Nabil. The article goes viral, and its author, Kate, receives an avalanche of new followers. Eager to use her new celebrity for good (or perhaps just high on the attention), Kate becomes an extreme internet activist. Kate’s technology-averse girlfriend Clem watches helplessly as Kate becomes so obsessed with ‘likes’ and ‘views’ that she loses touch with reality.

Meanwhile, beauty vlogger Mia, moved by Kate’s article, posts a heartfelt message about Nabil and the situation in the Middle East. Mia quickly becomes the voice of justice for Nabil, #FeelForNabil. To continue to raise awareness for the plight of Palestinians (or perhaps to keep her spot in the limelight), Mia resorts to increasingly ‘shocking’ stunts for her vlog posts, including cutting her arm and painting her face with blood. Mia and Kate’s stories switch back and forth, sometimes so fast it feels like toggling between tabs.

On set, long blue drain hoses are used to represent ethernet cables. They wrap around the space, and eventually around the characters themselves. At the beginning, there’s a scene involving an argument about foie gras vs. the vegan faux gras. And at the end, when Kate has one of the hoses in her mouth, it’s a shrewd visual metaphor that perhaps we are all overfed content that advertisers (or more ominous sources) use to extract money and data from us.

As both Kate and Mia spiral out of control, the play escalates to a frenetic pace, becoming more and more outrageous and gory in its bid to keep our attention. The ads increase too, triggered by the characters’ words: ‘Pain’ sets off a commercial for Nurofen. ‘Talk’ gives us an ad for ‘TalkTalk’ – an ingenious mimicry of the algorithm for targeted ads.

Feed is an innovative, disturbing, sharply relevant piece that implicates viewers in the content they watch. Theatre Témoin is warning us all to wake up and smell the foie gras.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography courtesy  Theatre Témoin


Vault Festival 2019


Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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The Art of Gaman – 4 Stars


The Art of Gaman


Reviewed – 8th October 2018


“Ailin Conant’s slick direction keeps the frequent scene changes characterful, allowing the energy to consistently simmer”


There are some words which don’t quite fit into an English definition, like schadenfreude (pleasure from someone else’s misery) or kummerspeck (the weight you put on from stress eating). Dipika Guha’s stellar new play demonstrates how ‘gaman’, too, is a word that cannot be served by our standards, and delivers it all in a mighty allegory about fish.

The Art of Gaman follows the journey of Tomomi as a young girl arriving in New York from Hiroshima through the subsequent sixty years of her life, and explores huge and complex themes of identity, sexuality, gender roles, purpose, and unfulfilled dreams. She finds herself desperate to become an actress and share her story, but hindered by the social and cultural expectations of women, as well as the hostile attitudes towards the Japanese during and after the Second World War. Guha’s script manages to deftly navigate these lofty concepts with care and wit; it’s rich with metaphors about koi fish, radios, and sunlight, and creates a vocabulary of textual references that layer on new meanings when called back to throughout. Unfortunately, however, a few fluffed lines from the actors occasionally prevent the delivery from landing with the impact that was no doubt intended.

Additionally, the scenes often felt quite filmic in their brevity and left a lot of momentous choices that the characters make to happen off stage. Luckily, Ailin Conant’s slick direction keeps the frequent scene changes characterful, allowing the energy to consistently simmer. This is aided by Helen Coyston’s smart and purposeful design which uses translucent curtains to instantaneously convey a number of locations and atmospheres. The performances from the whole cast were tremendous, particularly from You-Ri Yamanaka who primarily plays Tomomi – in an intimate space like Theatre503, the fact that she felt continuously spontaneous and authentic is all the more commendable. The other actors were tasked with depicting a variety of characters each throughout the story; Philip Desmeules and Alice Dillon especially succeeded in imbuing each one with an identifiable history from the moment they stepped into the scene, portraying exceptionally detailed and nuanced people in an instant.

Gaman is presented in the play as something beautiful being born out of an arduous struggle, like how carbon needs to be placed under immense pressure to become a diamond. The Art of Gaman is immensely ambitious in its scope and themes but largely achieves gaman itself, and delivers on those ambitions with aplomb, and in doing so provides a platform for a story that is often ignored and marginalised.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Helen Murray


The Art of Gaman

Theatre503 until 27th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Her Not Him | ★★★ | January 2018
Br’er Cotton | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Reared | ★★★ | April 2018
Isaac Came Home From the Mountain | ★★★★ | May 2018
Caterpillar | ★★★★ | September 2018


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