Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels
Writer and performer Athena Stevens comments that her latest piece, Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels is a neither a play nor a film, but “a series of asides” surrounding an extremely difficult but popular choice of topic in the arts: consent.
Stevens’s play premiered at the Finborough Theatre in 2020 and has since been repurposed for online viewing. It is also the premiere piece of the theatre’s #FinboroughForFree online content, for which new content will be streamed for every month during 2021. The writer has utilised digital platforms and iPhones to film and stage her plays for many years, so her grasp of digital storytelling is very accomplished. Late Night Starring at High Res Pixels is a case in point: the seamless Zoom, iPhone and iPad mash-up looks effortlessly slick. The presentation works well for the play’s main theme of assumed consent, the narrative revolving around a topless selfie. Meanwhile, themes of the dark inner workings of the Internet and false perfection on social media come to a head, matching the plot and making it much more sinister.
The central character “A” plays alongside “1” (portrayed by Stevens’s female co-star Evelyn Lockley), the titles presumably alluding to their insignificance in a story where a man is the focal point. The two strangers become well acquainted because of their connection with a man, who is love interest to “1” and best friend to “A”. The drama unfolds when “1” sends him a flirty topless selfie, unaware that he is “A”‘s best friend, and he subsequently shares the selfie with her. His casualness showing her the photo speaks volumes, but it is his lack of reaction that pushes “1”, riddled with insecurities, off the edge.
Design by Anna Reid and direction from Lily McLeish both complement the dialogue, which is the focal point – appropriately, in the context of a play about consent (who said what, how and the surrounding conversations). For each monologue, the camera is fixed in one spot, giving the characters freedom to move. McLeish plays with light and dark and space to emphasise contrasting tones in the monologues. For example, at one point “1” is sat on the floor in a corner; the light slashes across her face as she looks up and into the camera, emphasising her insecurity and the feeling of isolation that comes with a virtual relationship.
Stevens notably tackles head the oppression and control of women, and captures the heartbreaking reality of a friendship broken apart by the action by another individual. She comments: “I suddenly had the realisation that I was expected to follow a script in my relationships […] Oppression is always dependent on silence”. Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels is a satisfying 2021 watch, an in-depth study of navigating relationships and what rejecting normal social narratives can do.
Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels is available to stream on YouTube from 1st February until 31st March 2021. For further information and to watch visit here.