Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review: (Toronto) iShow (SummerWorks)

Dulled Critique
by Jason Booker

Technology: how to live with it, how to live without? And how does a critique of our connection to technology and each other in a performance art-style, theatrical piece work exactly? iShow aims to do that and modestly succeeds, though without a clear vision or message and leaving much of the message-gleaning up to the audience members. 

Using various techniques, this collectively-created show focus on those fleeting seconds online when individuals make choices: when to hit the next button on chatroulette to speak to someone else, what video content we choose to watch, what judgßments we make of those we view or meet, what freedoms being anonymous online allow us.

The show is spontaneous and somewhat unscripted, as cast members frequently are speaking in real-time with members of various webcam/chat sites. This creates a situation where the people on the other end of the conversation have to negotiate how they feel about being part of a theatre show and being projected to a crowd. It also results in a potentially graphic and explicit performance - so please do not bring your children to the show... or even possibly your mother.

There are moments in the show that are very clever (the recruitment of a random person to play Christian in a scene from Cyrano de Bergerac or the webcam flirting  towards the end come to mind) and there are others that are troubling. In one sequence, the audience is presented with a disturbing series of personal text messages between a mother and daughter involved in the Utøya Island shootings in Norway. Another moment features an invitation to watch a video of Luka Magnotta committing his crime from a hot seat on stage.  

Naturally some of these moments of violence or sexuality are uncomfortable, but that is also the point. How much responsibility does the audience take for participating in the documentation and distribution of these acts online? What does one partake of in private, that would not or should not be admitted publicly?

In another episode involving cookies, the authenticity of what is live and what is honest is called into question. Again, clever but not a pointed critique of anything, as the audience is left to connect the dots. But maybe that's the point of living in virtual world with too much information and too many choices available: the final analysis and decision is left up to you.

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