The Living Record Festival claims to be “a celebration of ground-breaking grassroots digital art”; very much the complete opposite in presentation to what we might be seeing in fringe theatres above pubs or under railway arches. Putting their money where their mouth is, they have commissioned digital productions, many from theatre companies whose live shows have been postponed in the past year. This includes Chewboy Productions, who have had to reschedule their 2020 show, Tethered, three times so far! So it is with genuine compassion for their plight that I settle down for their contribution, The Zizz.
It opens very much inline with that digital remit; the screen flickers, then a snippet of a TV shopping channel with its suave salesman (Georgie Bailey), before cutting to Doz (George Craig), alone, dishevelled, in an almost bare room. A bowl of food slides across the floor which he consumes eagerly, as if he hasn’t eaten for a long time. And throughout it all, there’s a rather annoying buzzing fly that he can’t quite catch, no matter how frantically he tries. But what does this have to do with those opening snippets, and why are all the windows covered up? So many questions already after just one minute. Questions are, in fact, not just in my head, they are voiced aloud onscreen, most telling of which is “But what if there is something else out there… that is the mighty question”.
Things continue in a very peculiar and confusing manner as Doz finds himself transfixed to a small TV that appears in the room. Odd messages flick across the screen, before it starts to display much the same footage we have just seen of Doz in his own lonely room. So, we find ourselves watching Doz watch himself. It really is all quite strange. Strange yet compelling.
So many questions, so many thoughts on what it all means. But I’m stuck at home watching. There is no one to bounce thoughts off come the end. And therein lies a major problem. For me, this is a show that relies on keeping you on edge, tense, waiting for something to happen, something to be revealed. The dilemma is that when you’re viewing on a computer screen at home, it’s not so easy to build up that tension, and the show does suffer for it. In a theatre space, the tension would be thick in the air, and come the end there would be that moment of silence, the audience uncertain if it is the end, before the applause. Then the soft chatter as people try to make head or tail of what we have just witnessed. All that is missing here. Instead, as it concludes, well I just close the screen and check the football scores. That after-show joy of dissecting the piece is lost.
The Zizz is damn strange, and I really am left scratching my head. But it is well made and feels a perfect fit for The Living Record Festival. It’s 15 minutes of wondering what the hell is going on, wondering if that fly is really there or if the buzzing is in his head. It’s a show I wanted to like, a show I did like, except I’m not certain quite why, nor what it was really trying to say. I have some ideas, but I won’t share them here, instead watch it yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Written by: Georgie Bailey
Directed by: Lucy Betts, Georgie Bailey and Hal Darling
Cinematography by: Hal Darling
Produced by: Chewboy Productions
The Zizz is playing until 22 February as part of The Living Record Festival. Full details can be found at the below link.