As User Not Found prepares for its London transfer – running at The CoffeeWorks Project next to Battersea Power Station from 17 May to 2 June 2019 – the show’s co-creators and Dante or Die co-artistic directors Terry O’Donovan & Daphna Attias recall the article that originally inspired them. Time to get booking!
Three years ago we read Caroline Twigg’s article in The Guardian, questioning what should happen to her husband’s digital legacy after his sudden death. Her writing is a moving depiction of grief magnified through the screen-life of the man she had lost in reality. We could immediately picture a performance inspired by this contemporary evolution of grieving.
Our audience would see into the online world of someone faced with the questions that go hand in hand with any legacy: what should or shouldn’t you read and how privacy has changed as smartphones have become so entwined with our lives.
Our process has been enlightening. We met with John Troyer at University of Bath’s Centre for Death & Society, questioned Aleks Krotoski who has written on digital afterlife in Untangling the Web and her BBC4 podcast The Digital Human. We’ve also collaborated with the University of Reading on a research project exploring social media within contemporary performance.
We knew we needed a collaborator to build our imagined digital world. After many meetings trying to explain the project with a variety of what we were told were ‘creative technologists’, we met Luke and Abhinav from Marmelo. Their creative and detailed approach to both the subject matter and developing the technical language, platform and content has been a continued source of inspiration.
We had three adjectives in mind for a writer to collaborate with: provocative, warm and human. Chris Goode was top of the list. Creating User Not Found with him has been a dream. Generous and insightful in his united approach, Chris contested our perceptions and crafted a script that has been a new challenge for us to direct and perform.
Composer Yaniv Fridel has collaborated with us since day one and developed a world-within-a-world to immerse our audience in, alongside the rest of our inspirational creative team including designer Zia Bergin-Holly, videographers Preference Studio and a brilliant team of technical stage managers.
One of our initial instincts was to stage the performance in a café – the contemporary office/anonymous communal zone. People connecting to the world through screens, yet insulated from it by headphones. What if the person sitting next to us was watching the pop music video that reminded them of their lost lover, or getting a Facebook message with the worst news possible? We wanted to create an insular world of an individual within a communal space.
We love sharing our story with small groups of people in cafés. We hope the production sparks a conversation with the person sitting next to you and will amuse, move you and trigger a debate with your loved ones. We hope to hear from you and stay connected in this weird digital world that we’re all navigating, by tapping and swiping with our ‘real’ digits.
Would you push the button?
User Not Found runs from 17 May to 2 June 2019 at The CoffeeWorks Project, Circus West Village, Road West, Battersea, London SW11 8EZ, with performances at various times. Tickets are priced £16.50-£20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!