Edinburgh Fringe 2013
This series of short performances from across the globe, carried out live over Skype, is a really interesting idea that is not quite fully realised.
The use of technology in this interesting work of remote performance opens up an ocean of possibility, but only really scratches the surface. The format is so simple and potentially powerful that it’s a wonder it doesn’t already form a major component of our cultural landscape: six actors sit in rooms scattered across planet Earth, and each audience member has a ten-minute interaction with any three of them over Skype. The company describes these little sessions as affairs, but despite a tinge of romance (in the broadest sense) to each, there are no thematic connections between the episodes. With 20 actors taking part altogether, and a different cast on each day, it is possible to go back several times and be treated to a different experience.
Before being led into the performance space, the audience – a maximum of six – is given a list of six global locations, and each asked to choose a starting point. We are led into a small room with six terminals, a headset attached to each. A member of the company sits us down at the appropriate computer, fits the headset, and starts the call. After a few seconds of dialing, a stranger at the other end picks up and begins to speak. After around ten minutes, the performer concludes the call, and we are moved to a second computer to repeat the process. After the third and final call, we are led out of the room and offered a supplementary interaction: the chance to send a postcard to any or all of the people we spoke to.
The three callers I come into contact with are Ángel (Madrid), Laura (Querétaro, Mexico), and Marina (New York City). Each is a consummate performer, with an understanding of how to perform to the camera, and I grow engaged with their presence despite the slight deficiency in sound and display quality. The content of the ‘affairs’, however, is harder to zone into. In part this is because of the short time spent with each; the performers are snatched away before there is the opportunity to get to know them. More importantly though, they are almost entirely one-way exchanges, with only Ángel offering me any significant input into the session. It is a joy to see these intriguing characters react to my own reactions, but this could be taken much further with a genuinely interactive structure.
The most fascinating aspect of this idea is that despite its audacity and global scale, it could be cheaply and easily reproduced anywhere, including the home, with the need for two computers or smart devices the only physical requirement for both rehearsal and performance. Beyond this, the possibilities are endless. Conference calling would allow the affairs to spin into love triangles, and it would also be straightforward to create a durational performance with daily or weekly installments over a period of time. The company should be commended for creating a production that was screaming out to be made, and I hope they take the idea further to tell deeper and more engaging stories.