Although I’m now an old hand at the Flash Festival, where the 3rd Year Acting Students at Northampton University perform their dissertation pieces, this is my first exposure to the Fringe Festival, seeing the work of the (BA) Acting and Creative Practice Students. And there’s a ton of shows on offer – fourteen in all and I’m (hopefully) going to be seeing all bar one of them – just can’t quite squeeze that last one in, sadly. Many of them I’ll see in the company of my esteemed blogger-in-crime Mr Smallmind, and hopefully we’ll find time to review them all as soon as possible!
The first show was Clickbait, performed by Flashdrive Theatre, a lively, funny and occasionally gruesome fifty minutes in the company of Luke-ing Good Luke and Emmazing Emma, two YouTubers who decide to promote their channels by a series of co-operation videos. Luke guests on Emma’s films, she on his; their popularity explodes so that they become LukeandEmma, their fans become Lemmans, and there’s no stopping their success. At first they fake their “relationship” in order to get more clicks, but romance does indeed blossom, and there’s more than one way in which they can exploit themselves in order to get an overwhelming number of thumbs-up. Is it a guaranteed path to fame and fortune? And are they strong enough to weather the problems that their self-exploitation inevitably causes?
Cleverly incorporating use of live phone recordings, we the audience can see exactly what the YouTube audience sees on their screens, and the play excels in conveying that sense that you can see everything that happens in these two young people’s lives. There’s neither privacy, nor risk that they won’t take. Punctuating the play are scenes from an amusing video lecture on how to be a good YouTuber, bringing in every visual pun under the sun, and entertaining us during the scene changes.
George Henry and Shona Bullas have a great partnership on stage, with no holds barred on the physical challenges the characters give each other – eggs smashed on heads, eating soap powder, covering each other with milk….and they’re the polite moments! The characters’ shared times of physical intimacy are also done with great conviction and just the right level of decorum (or not). The constant conversations between the two characters flowed seamlessly and it was all very well rehearsed and slick in performance.
There’s also an element of challenging the audience with what levels of degradation we’re prepared to witness people expose themselves to – and the sacrifices incurred as a result. I certainly watched some of the #Lemmacon “big challenge” scene through my fingers. It certainly makes you question whether you should encourage young people to demean themselves just for some short-lived and shallow popularity.
That’s put paid to any aspirations I might have had about being a YouTube performer! A very enjoyable, funny (but also sad) play. Great work!