Feed

Fri 3rd – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Ella Gryf-Lowczowska

at 10:56 on 8th Aug 2018

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The Lowry and The Everyman Cheltenham would have been better off co-producing with another production team, because the group behind “Feed”, Theatre Témoin, took it too far this time.

“Feed” intends to expose the baseness of our tendency to be taken in by clickbait culture, fake news and cyber gluttony. It aims to do so by interlacing the personal stories of a wily Search Engine Optimisationist (SEO), his champagne-socialist sister Kate, her girlfriend Clemence, and a South London youtuber, “Makeup Mia”. Kate steals her girlfriend’s photograph of a Palestinian boy, Nabhil, who died four years ago, and uses it to promote her article about a different Palestinian boy who died last week. Her brother manipulates algorithms to boost a YouTube video in which “Makeup Mia” gives a phony, pre-rehearsed speech about how she felt down after seeing the picture and eventually Kate’s article goes viral. Desperate for recognition, Kate goes off the rails, exploiting every humanitarian issue that she can find in order to further her own fame as a talking head for the BBC. Throughout this debacle, Clemence is the only one who manages to remain sane – not even the audience can keep their heads throughout this performance!

The performance did actually begin very well. The SEO opened with some well-timed witticisms and the first scene was really visually arresting. However, their attempt to ridicule the superficiality of modern life overshot the mark and, rather ironically, descended into a total farce itself. For example, the cast ridiculed vegans for not wanting to promote animal cruelty and also suggested that middle-class women act “unoriginally” when they vote for the Labour Party. I don’t agree that veganism is merely a fad that the upper classes should be made to feel guilty for indulging in. We should respect everyone’s individual choices and use satire tastefully. The gruesome means by which the cast threw scorn at huge sections of our society were so graphic that one couple got up and walked self-righteously out of the performance.

I recognise that the issues which “Feed” aims to deconstruct are very important and worthy of being challenged on the stage, but Theatre Témoin’s performance was obscene. The only redeeming feature was the skill of the cast members, who are generally capable of dramatic expression, authentic accents, and adapting to the various roles that they each adopt throughout the performance. There is much wrong with this play, most notably the grossly misplaced scene of Kate, a middle-classed Briton, kneeling with a string of bullets slung across her torso and a sword in her hand whilst she impersonates either a Palestinian or an Israeli soldier taking some sort of oath. It is not even clear at this point what is going on and I know that some people will find this scene deeply offensive. “Feed” is not the sort of performance that I expect to see at the Fringe Festival and I advise that your money will be better spent elsewhere. Go to a different performance.

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Kathryn Tann

at 12:33 on 8th Aug 2018

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“What we are trying to do… is to get and keep your attention.” These are the words of a SEO come-internet goblin-come-narrator in the strange opening speech of Theatre Témoin’s ‘Feed’. He claims confidently that certain images and videos, though disturbing, can hold a person’s interest with great success. The audience’s attention is at this point already arrested, and there is an uncomfortable feeling as the action unfolds that this man will be proven exactly right.

‘Feed’ leads us down something resembling a YouTube rabbit hole (we’ve all been there), where each scene escalates rapidly from the last. Suddenly, and without knowing exactly at which point it happened, the show has become a whirlwind, a chaotic collage of our greatest online fears. I would say, however, that this descent from commendable acting and a normal(ish) story line reaches a level at which the audience can no longer follow the multiple conflicting points this play is trying to make. It leaves no time to keep track of characters, let alone to process the implication of the action onstage.

For example, while I admired the interjection of soulless adverts acted out through light-up frames, their message was made too overpowering in comparison with what was happening on stage. The set was thoughtfully constructed, however, and I enjoyed the dynamic choice to have actors changing levels in every scene.

For myself, ‘Feed’ sacrificed its clarity and plot for power and impact too early on. Likewise, the relationship between the journalist and the photographer seemed to jarr with and be overshadowed by the warring themes of internet storms and social injustice. The performance was professional, well-oiled and certainly shocking, but it was also overwhelming at times.

Despite this, I did glean one message from ‘Feed’: as the play went on I began to realise the role that the audience were playing in this show. Each time the light came up over our heads, I felt a twang of guilt. And when the action finally climaxed in the prospect of a death by chainsaw, the remaining sane voice on the stage appealed to the audience to “stop looking you’re making it worse.” Suddenly, we were responsible for the horrible frenzy on stage, and that speech at the start of the play had proven true. It is for this reason that ‘Feed’ manages, where many have failed, to actively reach the conscience of its audience, though it uses harsh and uncomfortable means to do so.

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