Stay Safe: A WhatsApp play for Halloween
The first message sent is a set of instructions to allow the audience members to engage in the full experience of the play. Simple yet methodical, this already sets an eerie tone to the forthcoming night with allusions to real life events and investigations. It doesn’t help that the first sender is ominously named “X”. From that point on, hearts only beat faster as Stay Safe immerses viewers into the domestic mundanity of a parents’ group chat, sharply disturbed by a series of confusing events.
Thoroughly enjoyable and spine-chilling, the use of text conversations to tell a muted horror story is somewhat reflective of the current state of society. It works in an unnervingly fitting fashion as the dull and casual lives of the parents and the audience members themselves become distorted. The play makes the best use of WhatsApp’s capability to create atmosphere, engage viewers and pull together threads of passing conversations that climax into a deliberately messy narrative that remains with each individual person for the rest of the night.
Anticipation is built in several different ways. The varying waiting times between each message sent elicit impatient excitement, yet shocks of nervous energy. Specks of humour and normal conversations are scattered across the different parts of the group chat to maintain that natural façade. The use of emojis cut through the tension, only to backfire in spectacularly dark turns. Finally, the clever implementation of audio and video bites add suspense, leaving the audience to piece together the puzzle.
The play is a feast for different senses, from the crunching ruckus of the audio and the unsteady focus of the videos. It is truly amazing how much unease can be induced by just a series of messages being sent back and forth. This medium of telling a story taps into that texting anxiety that has become prevalent in the digital age. It is quite an intoxicating adrenaline rush of an experience that leaves viewers both confused and frightened, yet inexplicably amazed. Throughout the night, more messages flash across the phone screen demanding attention, indicative of what would appear to be a never-ending nightmare.
Stay Safe is happening over WhatsApp from 29th October until 31st October 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.