A woman is in her dark flat, hunched over two potatoes, some nails and copper wire trying to make a battery. Her phone is running out of juice, there is a power cut and you have to admire her ingenuity.
It’s not the first thing I’d think about if the power went off but then I don’t have a popular YouTube channel and social media accounts that need regular feeding.
The play, a production by Part of the Main theatre company for Applecart Arts, is live streaming as part of the Dazed New World festival and explores identity during the Covid crisis when your only connection to the outside world is via the internet.
We see our YouTuber – played by Charlie Blandford – pouting, preening and oozing confidence for the camera while talking about self-care during lockdown. Although we also see behind the scenes and how the best shots are carefully edited together to create the illusion of perfection and camera poise.
When the camera stops rolling and there is no self-editing she is human – flawed, frustrated, bored, lonely and desperate for that connection. There are no WhatsApp pings or message notifications either from followers, friends or family – she doesn’t even appear to try and get in touch with anyone real.
Wouldn’t she at least be monitoring notifications on her channel if it was popular? And presumably, she’d be scrolling through feeds to see what is going on? Instead, everything she does is curated for social media. She can’t seem to enjoy anything on its own merit, it has to be documented and broadcast – once edited for the perfect angle of course.
Through the prism of lockdown, it is a shallow existence and begs the question of what her life was like ‘before’. How big a challenge is lockdown to her life on and off the camera?
Has lockdown limited the filming opportunities? Has it given her more time to create? Does she have any real friends?
Without dialogue for much of the play, it is difficult to discern much beyond what you see physically happening in front of you.
And I think that is a flaw. There is only so much interest and information you can glean from watching someone rearranging the same pot of pens on a desk so they look just right on camera. I love the idea of this play but it generated far more questions than it answered.
It’s 55 minutes and the recording of the performance will be shown again on 20 and 23 October. For more details visit the Applecart Arts website.