Review: A Wire Apart, at the Studio

Playing as part of this year’s Manipulate Festival, A Wire Apart is a thought-provoking piece of visual theatre, exploring how our ability to be always connected with others can be, ironically enough, very isolating.

โญโญ

A Wire Apart
๐Ÿ“ The Studio, Edinburgh
๐Ÿ“… 05 – 06 February 2020
๐Ÿ•– 7.15pm
๐Ÿ•– Running time: 1 hour (no interval)
๐Ÿ‘ฅ Created and performed by Sarah Bebe Holmes and Bado Reti
๐Ÿ“š New writing
๐Ÿ’ฐ From ยฃ12
๐ŸŽญ There is no spoken dialogue in this production


I have really mixed feelings about this show, in which creators and performers Sarah Bebe Holmes and Bado Reti challenge their audience to question the impact of always being connected to a phone.

The show concludes that the impact is strongly negative, and my enjoyment of the production was somewhat stunted by a frustration that I have with the tone of that message. As someone born in the late nineties, I spend a lot of time listening to people tell me how “young people” can’t even make phone calls any more, let alone hold a face-to-face conversation.

I completely agree that social media brings with it a whole host of important, prevalent issues. But it also allows people to find communities, it provides an open platform for anybody to share opinions, or even start campaigns, and it can be a fantastic tool for maintaining meaningful connections between friends, and family.

Introducing my grandparents to WhatsApp has not just meant that they can keep in touch with everyone in the family, wherever we all are, but also that they can send us jokes, baby pictures – and, most importantly, accidental voice messages. (“It says we’re recording, David. We’re not, are we? Are we recording? What’s that little microphone?”)

For a thought-provoking, subtle production, A Wire Apart did little to acknowledge how the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects of instant connection intersect. Watching the production, I felt that I was hearing the same message that I’ve heard a hundred times outside of the theatre: phones and social media are destroying human interaction.

I also found it a little predictable that the show’s female character was most affected by social media, taking increasingly posed pictures and obsessing over likes, whilst the male character lost himself in a video game.

A Wire Apart clearly got me really thinking about these issues, and I imagine that was what it aimed to do. If it had balanced the impactful visualisation of the negative impacts of instant connectivity, with other nuances of the issue, it was have been an extremely effective piece of theatre.


Images courtesy of Carlos Hernan

Putting aside my hesitation over the message of the production, it is visually very impressive. Holmes and Reti’s performances are fantastically expressive. There is no spoken dialogue in the show, but what they are not saying is always very clear – often sparking empathy in the audience, and sometimes laughter.

The show includes some beautiful choreography – I was particularly impressed by Holmes’ aerial acrobatics, in which she becomes entangled in wires, and physically reliant on them to keep her from falling: a powerful metaphor.

Lighting is absolutely integral to this production, and lighting designer George Tarbuck uses it both to act as something tangible, and also to underline the omnipresence of technology. The use of blue lighting – the recognisable phone-screen hue – is particularly effective.


A Wire Apart played as part of the Manipulate Festival from the 05 – 06 February 2020.

The Manipulate Festival will continue until 08 February 2020. For more information about the festival and upcoming performances, visit: https://www.manipulatefestival.org/

More information about Paper Doll Militia can be found at: http://www.paperdollmilitia.com/aerial-theater-productions/shows/


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