Jordan Brookes: Bleed at Soho Theatre Online
Expectations are turned on their head during the Soho Theatre’s on-demand stream of the 2018 production of Jordan Brookes: Bleed. With technological surprises paired with Brookes’s onstage charisma, the theatre demonstrates the potential of using technology for theatre’s benefit in crafting truly immersive and fun performances for both live experiences and those behind a screen. Although plagued with long-winded moments and a tendency towards monologic self-explanation, Brookes’s production is an engaging piece of experimental comedy that seamlessly adapts to our current virtual reality.
Bleed is a non-traditional performance that simultaneously creates laughs and uniquely pushes boundaries. Presented first as a typical comedy show with “technical difficulties”, it then becomes the unexpected auditory journey of a frantic, self-indulgent comedian and his relationship with the audience. Normalcy is abandoned as the stand-up routine is overrun by pointedly absurd physical sequences and the overwhelming self-critical inner voices of Brookes.
The one-man show is crafted around breaking our preconceived notions of performance and of Brookes himself. His spontaneity and rapport with the audience are revealed to be a rehearsed scene. Similarly, every memorable mishap and possible derailment of the production is purposeful and planted by Brookes. Here is where the performance has its most interesting moments as well as its most prominent faults. Bleed tends to elaborate on how it tricked the audience instead of letting the experience speak for itself. The moments of reveal feel out of place and at points juvenile compared to the rest of the high-calibre show.
Although well-crafted with many enjoyable moments, the most defining feature of Bleed that makes it stand out against other streamed pieces of theatre is its use of headphones. We hear Brookes’s inner monologue, his memories and even an orgasm as if he were standing right next to us. This closeness and structure work amazingly as devices for online viewers. Hearing unexpected, realistic whispering in our ear captures a snippet of the excitement of a live performance.
Jordan Brookes: Bleed is not only an enjoyable production but one that demonstrates how theatre can thrive virtually. It is an exciting experience for all those willing to be part of Brookes’s comic experiment.
Jordan Brookes: Bleed is available to stream from Soho Theatre On Demand from 6th May until 27th May 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.