Pros: A variety of short forums allow us to talk about mobile phone usage in a number of different ways, making this show accessible to all. Mixing theatre and phones seems counterintuitive but it works!
Cons: A very personal experience, maybe too personal for some. A relatively pessimistic view on the “surrender” to the mobile phone.
Anyone who has been to the theatre with me knows how fastidious I am when it comes to switching off my mobile. With my old phone I would take the battery out. Now I can’t do that, so I console myself with switching on airplane mode, turning it to silent, and then turning it off. Ridiculous, I know. So it was an interesting turn of events when I was not only encouraged to leave it on during a show, but was actively willing it to beep and buzz.
I Wish I Was Lonely is an exploration of how we communicate in the modern day. It revolves around the idea that we have somehow reduced our relationship with those we love and the world to a series of un-nuanced letters on a digital page. And by becoming more and more reliant on our mobile phones we have somehow made ourselves, as a society, less content. The argument is that we no longer know what it really means to be lonely. We’re carrying instant communication around in our pocket.
Hannah Jane Walker and Chris Thorpe attempt to get this message across to us in a series of ways. They begin with a Shakespeare-like poem full of flourishing language about the mobile phone. We use our own phones to text and call each other and we also perform activities with each other as a group and one-on-one. All these actions are an attempt by the creators to get us to compare modern day communication with the real thing. The performance felt more like a workshop than a piece of theatre. The constantly changing nature of the event and the switching from one scene to another made for a quick-paced and interesting show. It also meant that if there was one episode you disliked it wouldn’t be long before we’d be doing something else. However, it was heavy on the audience participation, and it did lead to some awkward if friendly interactions.
Hannah and Chris themselves were friendly and approachable. They each gave a strong performance and made the gathering together of 35 strangers in an upstairs room at the Battersea Arts Centre less awkward than it could have been. This was helped by their openness and in particular Hannah’s frank retelling of two personal stories.
I’ll admit I do hate how I check my phone countless times a day to see if anyone has tried to contact me, but then I love it for the freedom it also offers me. Without my phone I wouldn’t have the chance to speak to my family every day or to friends who live on the other side of the world. I wouldn’t explore areas of London I’ve never been to before without my map app, and I frequently search Wikipedia for an answer that will win me an argument in the pub. Ok I’ve been burdened with a fast-paced and “never lonely” way of life, but I don’t subscribe to the belief that this attitude has reduced me as a human being and made me unhappy. And that was the problem I had with this show. It was a cheery piece and yet it focused on the negative effects the phone has had. I wish they’d given some of the 80 minutes over to considering the positives.
Created by: Hannah Jane Walker & Chris Thorpe
Co-commissioned by: ARC, Writers entre Norwich and Norwich Arts Centre
Box Office: 020 7233 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/30897/see_whats_on/current_shows/cook_up/i_wish_i_was_lonely
Booking Until: 15th March 2014