Bubble is a play written by Kieran Hurley for the digital format and developed with students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. This live stream, which premiered on 23 March and remains available on YouTube for a month, was performed by students on the Theatre Studies course at the University of Glasgow.
Set in a university but taking place completely in an online chat space, Bubble looks at the issues of free speech, feminism, misogyny, the use of language, the misuse of technology, the moral minefield around reportage, and the rise of hate groups.
What appears at first an innocent and quite endearing snafu where a professor sends a private message out into the public space becomes something disturbing, dark and sinister by the final scene (the only one to take place in full-screen).
Talk of “a culture of witch-hunting from the supposedly liberal student body” shows the chasm of understanding between student and staff, of generational change and wilful insincerity when supposedly considering the feelings of others (Anna, to whom the original offending remark was directed, just wants people to stop talking about it).
Students chafing against their cultural norms and right-on lecturers argue the meaning of words (“slutgate”) and attitudes (“victim blaming”) through a succession of video chats. When a female student makes an inflammatory comment following a heated discussion on safe spaces and exclusion, the play becomes truly unsettling.
The University of Glasgow performers are uniformly excellent, bringing a sense of reality to a piece which had no full rehearsal. Emojis, blocking, pieces to camera, and group chats are all used to move along a 21st-century story within the academy, a modern version of the street protests of students of half a century ago.
Bubble is performed by Rose Sharkey (Courtney), Catarina Arteaga (Ruth), Emmanuel Sonuga (Connor), Emma Semani (Anna), Emilie Robson (Hannah), Malou Keiding (Jane), Ed Larkin (Preston), Carles Pulido (Hornsby), Graeme Stirling (Prof Barrett) and Uma Nada-Rajah (Dr Hoefffersch).
It is directed by Emma Callander and Hannah Price, with visual effects by Louis Hudson and music by Simon Ruston.
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