Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“Distracted by giving an imaginary TED Talk to her bathroom mirror, social media phenomenon Faith Allgood (@WondrWomanUK) is running late for the school run. She’s glitching. Little does she know her world is about to implode… Darkly comic, this genre-busting debut play from acclaimed director Poppy Burton-Morgan (Mouthful, Trafalgar Studios) is both tense thriller and allegory of digital identity.”
Faith Allgood is a digital celebrity blogger known on Twitter as @WondrWomanUK. When we meet her, she is dressed in a Wonder Woman outfit and she tells us (in spoken word verse) about her path to becoming a sensation online. She recognised a need for more outspoken black women talking about their experiences, a statement which becomes much more weighted later in the piece as we learn the truth about Faith. She is a single mother whose daughter schools her in the importance of consent and privacy online when she shares a picture of her without asking. She adores her daughter and wonders whether she has spent too much time online and not enough time with her daughter “IRL”, without the distractions of her ever-present phone. These observations raise essential questions about our own relationship to the online world.
At this point, the show appears to be about being a mother in the internet age and the advent of the internet celebrity, when it takes a surprising dark turn. Faith’s daughter has been kidnapped and she must find her. What follows is a suspenseful ride as Faith becomes an amateur detective, explaining that her reluctance to call the police is due to her thinking that, as a black woman, she will not find them supportive or efficient. Finally, Faith finds herself in the location where her daughter is, when the action takes another hugely surprising Black Mirror-esque turn, leaving Faith questioning the very nature of her reality.
Simone James gives a compelling performance at Faith, at once strong and relatable, fierce and sympathetic. The ideas behind the piece are fascinating and bring to mind Elon Musk’s belief that we are all living in a simulated reality, and the themes explored of gender, race and personal responsibility in an anonymous digital world are important. However, the twists and turns happen too suddenly without giving us time to properly connect with and care about the character and her daughter which means they don’t have the impact they could have. One can’t help feeling the show is trying to do too much in the one hour run time. With some dramaturgical support to make sure the audience doesn’t become lost or disconnected, this could be a truly excellent piece of theatre. It was well worth the watch for the meaningful discussion of themes relevant to the world we live in, snappy writing and brilliant solo performance and I hope it has the opportunity to grow and develop further.