Brighton Fringe 2018
We are more connected than ever but are we feeling more alone?
Social isolation, living alone and loneliness equals a 30% higher risk of early death. All In Theatre use their unique style of clowning and physical comedy to tell a story about the importance of friendship
The stage was set with colourful digital wiring hanging down as a backdrop, with electronica playing, foreshadowing the show’s theme of friendship and what it means in social media. There was also a table with a lamp on it, which the two women, Amalia Vitale and Tatiana Collet-Apraxine dressed in grey loungewear, explained to us that when it was on we were in the real world, and when it was off we were in the digital realm or fantasy. Finally there was a chair with a jacket which the duo alternately wore to symbolise them inhabiting the role of the central protagonist, Ami.
This popular and vivacious duo attracted an equally young and vivacious crowd, crammed into the hot stuffy venue.
The show began with recorded voices of people defining what friendship means to them – and from then onward were transported, via a delightful mix of clowning and physical theatre, into a world where online friendship takes on a physical dimension.
As Collet-Apraxine spent most of the show with a bemused smile on her face, as she played the dimwitted ingenue of the duo. As she tried to meditate using a headspace app (voiced by Vitale), she was physically hit over the head with pool noodles, symbolising the intrusive Facebook notifications arriving on her phone.
The show was full of equally hilarious physical representations of online activities such Tinder (via “swiping” members of the audience), and Skype, utilising two picture frames and some well-observed comedic glitches. Vitale showed immaculate comic timing as she walked slowly across stage and out the theatre to ask a question (reminiscent of Julie Walters’ Mrs Overall character) and she also did an excellent representation of a malevolent coffee machine, although this was one of the times when she occasionally corpsed.
Collet-Apraxine’s deliberately bad vocal rendition of Dolly Parton’s 9-5 still got the crowd joining in, but then there was a skilled knowing and excellent fourth wall breaking as she berated the audience for joining in and being compliant, “This isn’t pantomime! It’s not We Will Rock You! You have agency!”
The duo do explore the elements of friendship, but they don’t really show the deep loneliness. They attempt it – with Collet-Apraxine trying to commit suicide – but the empathy was hard to muster with a character who up to that point had very little substance. There was an effort to make her more tragic by coming into the audience and revealing that she tried and failed at drama school many times and that she had to get some pain into her life, but this rang slightly hollow.
It’s clear to see their clowning roots have excellent pedigree in Complicite, Spymonkey and the like, and there were many great moments, but the central thread of Ami’s narrative tended to get lost in all the brilliant vignettes.
All in all, All In have created a superbly funny show, but it’s a bit light on the exploration of social media and could go further into examining this deeper – after all they hit us with facts like 60% of kids say they’re lonely despite being online all the time. However, this award-winning company are definitely stars, talking about serious things in funny ways, and are well worth making friends with.