Assembly George Square Studios
Aug 3-28 (16.15)
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Welcome to the early stages of the 21st century. For the past decade or so, the internet has fuelled the rise of social media, which has in turn taken over most of our lives. Not in a weird way, but in a cool accessorizing kind of way. The arts, then, are all-of-a-sudden beginning to draw inspirations from this new well of living matter, & thus I have just witnessed what would be, for me, my first Social Media Play. Its name is Shame, written by & starring, in the solo-fashion, Belle Jones. She is not quite alone however, for as we march through the story, her ‘daughter’ & the world she inhabits pops up with regularity on the screen behind her. While these video interludes (v-ludes?) are happening, Belle sits solemn & stony-faced, a half-light illuming her worried face, the classic-mother-with-errant-daughter, & a nice dramaturgical touch.
‘Do you ever think about your life in facebook update & Twitter… its like I update my life all the time,’ pipes her daughter Keira in a v-log, & Shame is something of an exploration of the social media platforms of 2017 & how if it is used without foresight, young lives may be destroyed by the unholdbackable tsu-na-mi of viral posts & their subsequent scroll-reams of vile gossipmonging. An event such as this forms the backbone of Shame, which bounces between Keira’s onscreen tale & the live responses from her mother. In the latter, Belle plays her role confidently – perhaps a little dry at times, but this is more of a psychic side-effect evolving from leaping between loud multi-media images full of characters, to Belle’s smoother-toned monologues. The films really were excellent, portraits of speaking hyperealism drawn from the darker recesses of these our modern times. Behind all this has been Tidy Carnage, whose artistic director, Allie Butler, described to the Mumble how the multi-media platforms work in support of Shame.
Working with extensive video content has been really interesting and allowed us to tell a story from multiple angles, despite it being a solo show. It has also pressed us to think about the narrative in various timelines and to give the effect of ‘pausing’ the live action while we delve into the digital. We’ve had lots of really interesting conversations about our online personas and how we present something that is truly representative of the presence of a young person online – a ‘digital native’. The other unique thing we’ve discovered is that #Unshamed was initially a fictional concept that Belle created as part of the show, but it’s now spread its wings and become a real life project. Find out more at www.unshamedproject.com and @Unshamed.
Shame expertly highlights the familar British attitude to sex; which still maintains its semi-demonized place alongside the dust under the carpet, when women are branded sluts for simply doing humanity’s most primal act. We British have always lived in a judgemental society, but Shame shows how social media allows such judgements to be spread far & wide with almost immediate alacrity. In the process, the script is full of honest lines, as when Belle explains the backstory to becoming a teenage mother as being, ‘I just liked having sex, there was nothing else to do.‘ On occasions Shame is too honest in its phraseology, best exemplified in the recrimations & trolling which shook the twittersphere after Keira, or rather @keirachisholmisaslut, goes missing in a moment of mortified madness. This, however, leads to the calmer waters of the play’s finale, & to the realisation that Shame is not just a piece of entertainment, but a warning to us all. ‘Just because you made a mistake,‘ says one of the ladies onscreen as if she was reciting an epithet from the Dhamma-Padda, ‘it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re a person,’ a mantra we should all learn off by heart.
Reviewer : Damo