Occasionally, a play emerges that holds a mirror up to society and forces its audience to reflect on what it sees. Feed is this rarity, and the mirror is thickly silvered – its clarity provides accurate shadowing, a depth of perception that judiciously informs its spectators. Yes, the world of Feed is hyperbolic – but only marginally. And the experience is thrilling. Theatre Témoin knows how to push limits. After all, “if it’s boring, dial it up”.
Warning – spoilers. Go see Feed now. Organic results are nested within this review.
Feed opens by A/B testing the audience, a prompt incision into our consciousness. We react and feed the actors information, selecting a dance, a nationality and an emotional stance. Next we reap the results: a mash-up programmatically tailored to our preferences – cue insulting Irishman doing quirky dance. One can imagine endless variations of this scenario written into the script. From the start theatregoers aren’t only engaged, we’re complicit in the outcome.
The plot follows a journalist who steals her partner’s photograph for an article, and an SEO specialist subsequently boosting a blogger’s emotional reaction to the misleading piece. Feed’s underlying message is that in the age of click-bait culture, fake news and cyber gluttony our attention is a commodity that feeds the machine – with no morals or monitoring. Its illumination is that behind the machine learning lie humans struggling to retain their grasp of humanity. Theatre Témoin viscerally enforces this realisation on its audience. An hour of superb acting and direction culminates in self-mutilated beauty blogger “Mia the Martyr” attempting her own live-streamed beheading to raise awareness for the Gaza crisis – a scene that’s equal parts horrifying and hilarious. In spite of heavy topics, the piece never loses its satirical focus, with grounding self-referencing like “real Middle-Eastern tragedy completely lost in indulgent British play”.
Producing Feed took physical theatre company Theatre Témoin “18 months of theatre workshops with data researchers and young people around social media and the attention economy”. It represents hybrid playwriting. Data-driven insights fuse seamlessly with dramatic stylistics to create a new kind of theatre: one based on the confluence of data science and art, an injection of tech into an age-old medium. Brilliantly imaginative yet algorithmically influenced, it’s everything we want and exactly what we need. Feed reinforces theatre’s position as an invaluable medium, still infinitely better suited than television to visceral interactive experiences exploring the human condition.
Photo: Theatre Témoin
Feed is at the Crescent from 6th until 10th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s festival page here.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.