Online at Facebook
In an attempt to make online theatre feel more of an event, Threedumb Theatre presents their latest show Within as a live Facebook broadcast on two consecutive evenings (and then available to view at any time). It’s a brave move and one that has to be commended, almost forcing me to prepare for the late 10pm start and focus expressly on the show.
But in streaming live some issues are created that can distract from the performance. To avoid being too static the camera moves around the small studio flat, which is absolutely fine when our lone performer, Joe, is on the move. However, when he is just sitting the camera continues to pan shakily around, when it could surely have been placed on a tripod to allow for a steadier picture. The lighting also causes difficulties, due to the constant changing of camera angles. When the camera pans to a more brightly lit part of the room its focus is momentarily lost as the lens readjusts, causing a kind of screen burn. Obviously, allowances should be made for the bravery of the live show, but these are surely elements that could be worked upon to improve the viewing experience.
Such issues aside, Within does make for a compelling 50 minutes. There is a hint of Black Mirror in the story, set as it is in a slightly futuristic time when smartphones are controlled by swiping a finger through the air and artificial intelligence is able to interact in a much more conscious way. It follows Joe (Stephen Smith), just home from work, looking for something to distract him from the boredom of another evening all alone. Whilst swiping through available options on his phone he comes across an app (voiced in a perfectly hypnotic way by Millie Webber) offering to provide him with the meaning of life, a way to find the happiness we all seek. But once downloaded the app forces Joe to look deeply within himself; his loneliness, his desire to find more from life than just work, home, sleep. At times the story hints at an obvious arc towards its dramatic conclusion, even throwing in a slightly false ending to trick us into thinking we’ve sussed it out. So come the actual end it is pleasing that it’s not quite as expected.
Smith’s portrayal of Joe is highly commendable, going from bored individual to tense, sweating, agitated loner desperate to receive the happiness he has been promised. To this end he is ably assisted by Stephanie Van Den Driesen’s sound and lighting effects. Given the live presentation, the simple effects offered are nonetheless impressive, and help create added tension. The background sound, hardly audible, rachets it up another notch too, as it gnaws away at the back of your hearing. Equally laudable is the effective use of the laptop as an additional tool to allow for cut-aways.
Within is a worthy online offering. But it is also a show that would work even better in the confines of a real theatre, with the audience more compelled to hold its collective breath as the tension rises, and where the lighting and sound could envelop us in ways that no online production can ever quite achieve; at least not yet, but the future may change all that, hopefully though not in the same sinister way as Within suggests!
Written by: Joseph Furey
Directed by: Stephen Smith
Filmed By: David Smith
Produced by: Threedumb Theatre