Jonathan Powell

On one particularly contemplative, tea-fuelled FaceTime (aren’t they all?), we mulled over how quarantine has made us acutely aware of the pressure that is upon us all to prove that we are “doing” something with our time. The many hours that we’ve spent sat in our rooms contemplating the most inane topics have nearly always been followed by a feeling of guilt that we have nothing to show for that time. We found ourselves questioning every way that we spend our time alone - a unwarranted personal Q & A you might say. So naturally we decided to take the only logical action that two Cambridge theatre enthusiasts could - write a webseries about it. So now we’ve got Lifestream, a show which takes these pressures and the way in which they filter our view of our personal lives and attempts to relieve this pressure by flipping it all on its head.

We were both in need of laughter, a shared experience and perhaps a privilege that we took for granted when things were normal and we were surrounded by our friends. Lifestream was a way for us to make the weight of quarantine pressures a little lighter: worries about keeping in touch with our new friends, managing academic work and simply staying okay have become the comic catalysts for our three student characters Paul, Rufus and Natalie, as they can’t help but complicate their lives. If only they’d just admit defeat and sit on the sofa all day.

Rather than chasing after an unattainable level of productivity, enjoy the time you have with those you value most

Writing, directing and filming this series has been the thing that’s got us through these difficult and - unprecedented - times. Taking on the task of filming from a first-person perspective invited us to rediscover the comedy in our personal circumstances and turn it into something to entertain others. Perhaps you will see something of yourselves in the characters (we certainly did), or something of your friends (we may have done, but it wouldn’t be a good idea for us to admit that), as we considered how each “species” of student would be coping in isolation. Paul, a soft-hearted cynic with a love/hate relationship with Shakespeare and a penchant for a simple life that he can never seem to achieve in quarantine, strives to overcome his insecurities by rising to the jibes and challenges of Rufus, an uninhibited and extroverted “Scottish” English student, played by the actually intensely northern Matthew Paul. Meanwhile, the easy-going and fed-up Natalie remains oblivious to Paul’s desperate attempts to impress her (and we mean desperate).

We knew from the start that we wanted our talented and enthusiastic cast and crew to get involved with their own ideas. Filming separately in our homes has, in a beautiful little paradox, dismantled the division that can sometimes exist between cast and crew in the best way possible, as everyone’s personal insights about life in lockdown have injected scenes with a relatable and comforting energy - something that is not always possible in the strictly-scripted and rigorously-rehearsed confines of a real Cambridge stage. We can catch a glimpse of the actor’s own feelings about the current student experience in an exasperated outburst toward the parodic “online personas” who push the students into productivity paranoia. Matthew Paul’s frenzied nude (but entirely PG) poetry-writing session is perhaps the height of this craziness. (No, this isn’t clickbait, it’s genuinely in Episode 2. We don’t know what we were thinking either.)

Jonathan Powell

We hoped to craft online personalities who were (unfortunately) recognisable as not-too-subtle parodies of the figures dominating our TV channels and internet airwaves right now with intensively “fun” ways of staying busy in quarantine. Sam Brown as ostentatious celebrity chef Sam Cater creates an extravagant beef bourguignon that rivals even the pretentious poet, Guy Flangebread’s, nonsensical “poetry” pitched from the very pinnacle of narcissism, as actor Oscar Wilson puts a mirror and turtle necks to better and weirder use than has ever been seen before. Meanwhile, Molly Ghinn plays lifestyle vlogger Molly Moisturise with delightfully nauseating aplomb, whose “productivity” YouTube videos may mean you need to have a sick bucket to hand.Whilst our main hope is that people laugh at Lifestream, we also believe that it has the potential to remind us of the things that we should hold onto during these difficult times. Rather than chasing after an unattainable level of productivity, enjoy the time you have with those you value most. Remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be making yourself feel okay right now. Oh, and bear in mind that any sudden compulsion to, for example, make a webseries, will probably turn out to be a bigger commitment than it initially seemed. (But also a highly rewarding one.)


Mountain View

The Fringe Must Go On

The first episode of Lifestream will be broadcast on the ADC's YouTube Channel at 2pm on Monday the 8th of June, with the next two episodes being broadcast at the same time on Wednesday the 10th and Friday the 12th.