With great power comes great responsibility.
Shock Therapy Productions presented this idea to the audience on the weekend at the Gold Coast Arts Centre with their latest theatre production Viral. A number of true events prompted the creators to explore the rapidly changing world of social media and the social responsibilities connected with it.
As we took our seats the opening scene was already playing out. A woman howls in the throes of labour on a stark black bench, whilst her husband, preoccupied on his phone (filming, uploading, distracting the midwife requesting selfies) falls victim to the worst possible thing can happen in a 2016 birthing room – his battery dies. “OMG, WTF do I do – stop pushing!!!”
The scene then shifts to a high school yard. Two new students who have “friended” one another (in real life) spend their lunch breaks side by side on their devices looking at YouTube videos, wondering how they too can become overnight sensations. Their moral compass says no to racism, and animal clips of kittens and babies have been overdone. They know they need something with shock value and come up with an idea which has both intended and unintended consequences. Next we are transported to a music festival where a catastrophic event is filmed while a victim lays helpless.
There are many acts in this play that highlight the problems which have confronted us since the dawn of in-your-face 24 hour social media. A support group of victims question why people are so cruel and do not go to the aid of a human being – rather they are more likely to film the humiliation/assault – for what reason? Likes?
In the backdrop are several large screens resembling an iPhone or Android smart phone and text messages, emojis, likes, are displayed to further enhance the stories and the constant presence/invasion of social media. A slam poetry YouTube video of Luka Lesson is played during a scene highlighting the importance of spoken word to inspire social change and fight against vanity and racism. The climax is a powerful scene of humans turning into vultures, reduced to behaving like animals, asking the questions – where is my moral compass now set, are we lost? Do we not have any basic human instinct to go to someone’s aid – is our instinct now to film it? For what – posterity / memory / evidence? What about memory – is it lost unless recorded on a device? What will happen to our ability to tell stories?
The set comprised of two simple black boxes, moved into a variety of positions to form bench seats, podiums and hospital beds. The cast members portray a number of different characters, all clearly defined with seamless transitions between them. The stellar performances are led by writers and directors Sam Foster and Hayden Jones. The supporting cast performances were also brilliant; this production company is young, energetic and very talented. Viral is touring Queensland Schools in term 3 and performances at the Gold Coast Arts Centre finish this weekend.
A funny and thought provoking must-see show.