Pros: An inventive use of technology which I have never seen the likes of before.
Cons: The convergence of the two characters’ narratives is unusual and difficult to grasp.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – the Ovalhouse holds host to pioneering theatre and this show is no exception. An imaginary meeting between H, a modern hacker from London, and American photographer Vivian Maier explores not only the life and times of the Unknown Nanny Photographer but also moralistic opinions of privacy and legalities.
The plot follows the mystery that is Vivian Maier, a lady who took hundreds of photographs but only developed a rare few and shared her secret talent with none but those she photographed. Following her death in 2009 her possessions were auctioned off and with them rolls and rolls of undeveloped film. These were later developed and exhibited to the world; Vivian’s work could finally be admired. This retelling of her story acknowledges the gaps in her timeline and makes light of possible occurrences, rendering it not only truthful but inventive and engaging as well.
Though both Beth Fitzgerald and Molly Taylor gave very strong performances the two narratives didn’t seem to flow naturally together and in places the pace slowed. Other elements somewhat detracted from the moralistic aspect of the play. On one hand the audience was sold the strong idea of legalities within personal information sourcing and how this interacts with and disrespects privacy. Still yet, the beginning of the play began with drug use which was only briefly touched upon. However, both characters were well-developed and performed with a real sense of spirit and energy.
The main cutting edge aspect of this play was the way the audience was manipulated through technology. Prior to the show we were instructed to download an app to enhance our theatre experience. This app encouraged photo taking during the performance, which went against every instinct of theatre etiquette I possess. What most people may have missed is the terms and conditions upon downloading the app. Agreeing to the policies of the app gave it carte blanche to take sneaky front camera photos of you throughout the night, access your five most recent photos and cross reference your email with an online database. Needless to say this came as a shock at a certain point during the performance for those unaware of what they had agreed to…
Alongside the main features of the play the use of space was interesting; having an audience stand for the entirety of a performance and freely moving around is a novel way to keep their attention and maximise space usage. The projection which showcased Vivian’s photographs was glorious and really gave an insight into her work. What detracted from this beautiful technical work was some questionable lighting choices of unnecessary bold colours.
This play had all the potential to be ground-breaking and extraordinary if only it demanded more of itself. Nevertheless it was thoroughly enjoyable and something I had never experienced before. I will certainly take away a lot from this show, chiefly the exciting possibilities of theatre.