Tash and Flo have a niche business: they provide celebrity video messages and endorsements for willing buyers. Of course, no celebrities are actually involved. Flo (Grace de Souza) reads the messages to a camera, while Tash (Annabel Ekue-Baptist) uses deep fake AI to superimpose the celebrity’s face onto Flo’s head, the result projected onto a white screen at the back of the stage. The moment when Flo’s face is suddenly replaced by that of the Queen, in real time, is both funny and disturbing. “Why do people want messages from dead people?” Flo asks. Tash merely shrugs. “We get requests for Marilyn Monroe all the time.”
The pair prepare for their next celebrity fake: Bridport Women’s Football Club have requested a message from Keira Knightley in her Bend It Like Beckham days to gee up their captain. But then Alfie (Henry Waddon) rolls up. An old school friend of Tash, he’s both intrigued and vaguely perturbed by the process. “We only fake celebrities, not real people,” Tash explains. “Their faces are in the public domain.” But it’s a lie: the messages aren’t real, the people aren’t real. How can this be legitimate? Flo has a pat answer: the more popular their service becomes, the less people will believe what they see on the internet.
Alfie is something of a drifter, applying for uni but with no concrete plans. But he has a secret obsession: and when he asks Flo to “become” that obsession, her face captured from a snap on his phone, she has second thoughts. Is this too intrusive? Is it psychologically healthy? Or is it just a bit of fun?
Written and directed by Gabe Winsor, and devised by the cast, Sockpuppet elegantly captures the zeitgeist with its slick video capture technology and gradual plot development. Curious interludes feature a fourth character, played by Georgie Dettmer, who doesn’t speak but instead films close-ups of her hands trickling sand onto the stage.
The cast all have a credit as devisers of the play, and this does result in a somewhat disparate message. The role of the sand trickler is obscure, a metaphor that doesn’t quite hit the mark. The action is oddly staged, with a hefty cable from the camera snaking across the stage before disappearing up into the lighting rig.
Sockpuppet raises many questions – who owns their image? How much should we trust what we see online? To what extent should we allow ourselves to indulge our fantasies? The show may not answer many of these questions, but it will certainly leave you thinking.
Directed by: Gabe Winsor
Produced by: Buzzcut Productions
The show has now ended its run.