Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“Richard Saudek performs a twisted and highly physical romp at breakneck pace. Created by physical comedian Richard Saudek, TV and film composer Jesse Novak and director Wes Grantom, Beep Boop is a multimedia clown show, exploring our obsession with technology and our increasing loneliness in a world full of connections. ‘If silent film-era comedy and Black Mirror had a baby it would be called beep boop’ (theasy.com).”
This is a one man mime and physical theatre show with a live digital soundscape, exploring society’s obsession with online life via our ever near smart phones and other digital devices. With grotesque physicality, the main character’s sunken eyes and sallow skin and darkly comic behaviour reveals the depth of his addiction to his digital screens. We are taken on a journey with him that is both funny and full of chilling recognition. We join him through the minutiae of daily life and watch him in a fish bowl, observing under uncomfortable scrutiny the fruitless and claustrophobic relationship that he has – that we all have – with modern technology.
Saudek is a high energy and committed performer who had the audience watching his every move: we were mesmerised, amused and aghast. He reminded me of a Pixar cartoon character as the comic sounds linked up seamlessly to his every move, making the whole performance take on a surreal and hyper real quality.
Creating a show this complex requires unflinching, bold direction and this together with almost perfect music, lighting, and sound made this show’s production values stand out in many ways for me. The sounds are all synced with the characters every move by a voiceless skilled woman who lives in a vortex, on and off stage at the same time, often mesmerising to watch as she watches Saudek like a hawk responding to his every move. Boundaries are deliciously blurred as she, the technician, disappears off mid performance creating a dimension of quizzical uncertainty. Other perfectly timed moments of audience participation were both skilful and hilarious.
I haven’t seen anything like this on the fringe; the use of clowning and silent dark caricature comedy to explore the human disconnect of modern digital connection is original and powerful, creating a satisfying piece of theatre to chew on thoughtfully beyond the show’s ending.
I was intensely curious about Saudek’s performance. I felt as if we, the audience, disappeared so fully into his addiction crazed character that we lost sense of who he might have been before. What his story was. Because although it’s easy to point towards the thing that is the addictive component, its even more compelling to look at why. This is a little niggle in an otherwise high quality show by a hugely talented team.
Overall I was fascinated by this exaggerated comical character who unveiled uncomfortable truths in all of us; of the behaviours that pull us away from our humanity, and the starkness of living in a world that we bolt the physical door against, yet open so freely up to via our out of control fingertips. A world that isn’t being fully inhabited as eyes are drawn in again and again to that flickering, seductive light. I felt thoughtful and uneasy when the show finished – it didn’t leave us with a positive resolution, and this I feel is what the show is urging us to reflect on.
Saudek’s incredible and unstoppable performance gave us a quite astonishing and memorable image: the tragicomical and darkly pitiful loneliness in a compulsive online world that encourages its own loyal users to spin their own fake news lives. This show turns the darkest of mirrors onto us all and is a must see this Fringe.