Tag Archives: Louise Lee

Feed
★★★★

VAULT Festival

Feed

Feed

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

Feed

Part of VAULT Festival 2019

 

 

 

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Sh*t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

Merchant

Shit-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 19th  April 2018

★★★★

“perhaps unsurprisingly, not for the purists, but a joy for everybody else”

 

Magnificent Bastard Productions’ Shakespeare adaptations have a very simple premise; the plays are performed straight, but one of the actors has spent a few hours before the show getting very, very drunk. For predictable reasons, namely not giving the actors a deft case of cirrhosis of the liver, Magnificent Bastard Productions rotate a large cast around various roles, providing different characters and actors with the opportunity to drink. On the evening of this review, Louise Lee was the drunkard du jour, playing Shylock’s daughter Jessica.

The humour (and therefore the meat) of this wilfully uproarious production comes from Lee’s inability or unwillingness to perform her role as intended, resulting in ridiculous and often abstract tangents to which the sober actors respond. In this sense, Shit-faced Shakespeare has much in common with traditional improvised shows, but with the madness sourced from just one highly unpredictable actor. Further cementing the improv feel of the show is the inclusion of a compere (Saul Marron) to introduce the rules of the show and provide occasional commentary/support on Lee’s antics.

And antics there certainly were. It’s hard to gauge where the drunkenness stopped and Lee’s blank cheque to cause a nuisance began, but the contrast of her stumbling (through half-remembered lines and also stumbling more generally) against a traditional cast of actors ‘doing Shakespeare properly’ is genuinely very funny, if occasionally fundamentally at odds with dramatic contents of a given scene. Where some of the best laughs, as always with improv, come from are the baffled attempts of performers to go along with whatever insanity has just been established; I occasionally felt as though one actor constantly being the butt of the joke, whether willingly or not, lent a slight sense of cruelty to the proceedings. It might have been nice to have the compere introduce Lee as the star of the show during the introduction – a more personal touch might have lessened the occasional, nagging feeling of being part of a baying mob.

I sometimes wonder with improvisation whether things would in reality play out differently the following night, but I had no such concerns here; this is a neat and effective take on improv, allowing for a genuinely unpredictable atmosphere, with control of the piece flitting between the compere, the sober actors, the drunken Lee as Jessica, and, in a delightful touch, even the audience.

Overall, this was a great Summer chortler that provides glorious improvisation madness under the guise of a classic Shakespeare play. Shit-faced Shakespeare is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not for the purists, but a joy for everybody else.

 

Reviewed by Matthew Wild

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Shit-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

Leicester Square Theatre until 2nd June 2018

 

 

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