Midnight Movie at the Royal Court Theatre
It’s rare that audiences are presented with a positive image of the online world, especially in 2019, when the internet’s toxic run-off has poisoned the well of discourse and democracy. In other words, it’s easy to forget the joyous freedoms granted by our digital bodies. The ones that allow people to transcend glitchy flesh and bone.
Eve Leigh’s Midnight Movie isn’t so much a celebration of those elements of online life, but rather a location-hopping – but completely stationary – exploration of its dark, sexy, weird corners. A woman fighting invisible monsters in an LA elevator. A man in a bath in Poland watched by the assorted crowds of a drive-in film. A dangerous game played between a young girl and an unknown “Blue Whale”. All recounted by Avatars One (Nadia Nadarajah) and Two (Tom Penn).
Perhaps the biggest strength of Rachel Bagshaw’s production is how it captures the texture of being online, in an avatar of your own creation, without resorting to the direct replication of the interfaces with which we are all so familiar.
Dynamic captions act as both an example of the play’s commitment to inclusion and the visual spirit of the web. Ebbing and flashing and popping up on the wall projection, alternately chats, forums, news stories and personal blogs. The font isn’t fixed, nor is its size or placement. The air is filled with exchanges. Layer on top Penn’s speech and Nadarajah’s BSL (as well as the available audio description), and you’re left with a pretty rounded image of communication overload. It even reproduces the constant sound-tracking most of us do throughout the day, the production haunted by the squelches of Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel” without the song ever properly escaping its cage.
The stories being told are of varying quality, never quite as strange or out-there as they’d truly need to be to capture the Wild West of the internet. Better is when the show’s “narrative” voice is made explicit: a person whose body is often in the “wrong place”, in places completely wrong for their body, in ways that make them feel like their body is wrong. It is then that the play’s disparate gases start to coalesce into a star, burning with the ferocity of a million possibilities normally denied in “real’” life but allowed to blossom digitally.
Photo: Helen Murray
Midnight Movie is at the Royal Court Theatre from 27th November until 21st December 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.