The play explores our interaction with technological devicesuntag me company

untag me, Thomas Dixon’s ambitious piece of experimental theatre, masterfully blurs the boundary between performance and reality, interrogating the implications of our increasingly intimate relationship with technology. But the “our” here is an exclusive “our”; an envelopment of those who resist concrete definition by generational categories, those who are ambiguously neither Z nor millennial. We are the age that time forgot, but that the internet will remember.

The theatrical set-pieces are intermittent and punctuated for the participants with snatches of the “real world”

Tents in a field – containing art installations and improvised dramatic setpieces – invite a wandering audience to temporarily immerse themselves in the spectacle. Visitors can dictate their own passage through the work’s components, interacting however and whenever they choose. The artistic elements depict and explore the experiences of the contemporary youth, who find their world simultaneously expanded and narrowed by digital possibility. This enthrallingly unique “set” – if such a limited term can be applied here – uses the tents to great effect, as a means of compounding the sense of paradox: the audience members are able to move freely between enclosed and open space in a simulation of the cognitive experience prompted by interaction with technological devices.

The actors experience a similar flickering between reality and performance as they mediate between improvising dramatic tableaux on loop and taking much-deserved breaks. Rather than being sustained, the theatrical set-pieces are intermittent and punctuated for the participants with snatches of the “real world”. This intermingling, for both actors and audience members, is reflective of the relation we bear to our technological prosthetics. Becoming absorbed in one’s phone screen is a dipping into an alternative digital space – but where do we go? Where is this boundary between tangible reality and the abstract, yet equally real, online environment? The naturalised performances are constantly alive and shifting as they attempt to inhabit this liminal space between the two dimensions. Dixon is playful in his direction, keen to keep the performance in a continual state of flux and transformation: it is likely that the upcoming presentation and layout of this piece will be quite different from the first, which was presented at Midsummer Common on Saturday.

The actors allow their own experiences to suffuse the improvised drama

The staging of the piece at Strawberry Fair last weekend simulated the vibe of a festival, the set-up blending in with the surrounding festivities. Yet the spectacle itself maintained a disorientating effect: there was a deliberately unclear distinction between the actors and those participating, the possibility existed for anyone to adopt a persona upon their entrance into the unique theatrical space. The profoundly confusing cognitive impact of this crafted environment mirrored the thoughts prompted by the use of social media in particular – who am I? Or rather, who am I presenting?

Who are we on the internet?

During our discussion prior to their first performance, the cast members reveal strikingly individualised responses to this interminable question. Some enjoy the creative opportunities afforded by social media – the capacity to craft an aesthetic self or employ an alternative communicative code – whilst others are warier of the way in which the internet encourages judgement of static and potentially unrepresentative images. It is precisely these distinct approaches to technological interaction which bring the performance alive as a comprehensive display of contrasting attitudes and responses. The actors pick their own roles, playing themselves to varying degrees, but all allow their own experiences to suffuse their improvised drama. Our conversation examines the simultaneously suffocating and liberating possibilities of technology, which are reflected by the performance as a whole. It perfectly embodies this duality, as the improvised nature of the spectacle provides the actors with endless creative freedom whilst also demanding relentless energy.

A unique theatrical spaceuntag me company

One cast member notably comments that he was drawn to this work because it functions as the “first student response to the revelations regarding Cambridge Analytica”. This scandal unleashed waves of unease as it forced the population to question how much they value their privacy. Is there any privacy on the internet? Director Thomas Dixon is keen to explore the implications of online footprints, with the installed artworks representing an attempt by the cast and crew to record, monitor and document themselves in various ways. Every stage of the process is interrogatory in a way which enhances the production: the group chat employed by the team to organise rehearsals is simultaneously a medium in which the cast send messages in character, experimenting with alterations to social dynamics and relations. This collaborative creativity contributes greatly to the impact of the overall performance.


READ MORE

Mountain View

Wishlist preview: ‘heart-breaking, endearing, and bittersweet’

This stunningly unique theatrical experience depicts a generation grappling with the implications of leading a life online. Its spatial format is not only widely accessible, but extremely innovative in its attempt to capture our complex relationship with that which is both fluid and static – the digital self.

The second performance of untag me will be staged at a secret location on Wednesday June 13th at 9pm

Sponsored links