On 2 September 2015, three-year old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi was found dead on a beach. The photograph, showing the little boy face-down dead in the sand, was shared across social media, generating mass outrage and discussion. Even anti-immigrant papers like the Daily Mail expressed dismay. For a while it was all everyone could talk about. And then it was forgotten.
Feed is a satire on social media, clickbait, and complicity. From unscrupulous corporate interests, self-serving journalists, abusive trolls, fame-hungry influencers, to the everyday user, Feed presents the surreal and dangerous experience of online life. The play asks whether social media can really be a tool for justice, and whether we should all just log off.
The play shows how viral fame may not be the best means of raising awareness. When a photograph of a Palestinian child running from Israeli fire is published online, a relationship falls apart, a beauty vlogger becomes famous for self-harm videos, and an internet troll becomes the leader of an alt-right movement. Feed is made up of short dramatic sequences and dystopian advertisements, culminating in a circus of absurdity and violence.
The main problem I have with Feed is not a lack of subtlety but a lack of depth. Social media certainly creates ‘celebrities’ and mobs, but this point felt reactionary rather revelatory. I would have liked to have seen the play go further, not only taking on the easy targets of social justice warriors and misogynist trolls but the people who feed them, pay them, and keep them relevant in a news cycle that cares more for clicks than human life.
Still, the play is capably performed and has some outstanding design. Helen Coyston’s set is wondrous – using two shifting brick walls to indicate an online world that is anything but open, and towering phone screens for mockingly cruel adverts. Aaron Dootson’s lighting is smart too, shifting focus from performer to audience to emphasise complicity. I was also impressed with Ross Flight’s sound design, with a repeated motif that seemed banal at first, but gradually became more sinister as the play went on.
Feed plays into people’s fears about social media but neither substantiates nor challenges them, and what we’re left with is high melodrama rather than social critique.
Written by: Theatre Témoin
Director: Ailin Conant
Producer: Fiona Mason
Box Office: 02080509241
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/feed-2/
Booking Until: Sunday, March 10