Edinburgh Fringe 2019
An attempt to write a new Fringe show by using algorithms at the world’s biggest search engine. And some amusing characters too.
Eleanor Colville is a whirlwind of energy as she hits the small stage at Just The Tonic’s Caves venue, running into the audience to high-five or even high-ten us all. Unfortunately, and probably due to Google running interference on her, this part of the show takes barely thirty seconds. But, enthusiasm undimmed, she launches into her hypothesis – that she could write a show based on search algorithms and, at the same time, demonstrate just how all-pervasive the Google behemoth has become.
It’s an interesting notion – type in “how to write a Fringe show” into Google and see what comes back at you. As part of my research in writing this review, I did just that; it came back with 141 million suggested sites to visit. Not quite having the time to do that, I’m happy to take Colville’s word that, by following each key lead that your first and subsequent search questions produces, you can conjure up a show that’s been almost untouched by human hands. But, of course, auto-suggestions tend to reinforce lines of inquiry, potentially leading to self-fulfilling hypotheses and some plot lines and thinking that’s amusingly zany…….and skewed.
A lot of effort has gone into pulling this complex, multi-media, techno entertainment together. And, mixed around the interweb stuff is some delightful character comedy, definitely an area at which Colville excels. Characters are beautifully rounded, convincingly delivered and genuinely funny. And beneath the comedic exterior of the persona on view are some carefully crafted messages highlighting the dangers of spending too much time in the digital world and just how it can distort one’s view of reality.
By Colville’s own admission, this show is something of a work-in-progress and it might indeed benefit from a stronger storyboard (the “Google Me” thread became more opaque as the hour progressed); fixing the graphics so we could all share in the idiotic things people search for would also help. Or had those bots from Google got at her presentation materials? One wouldn’t put it past them.
But the character comedy is excellent and there is a valuable message in there that just needs teasing out – waste less time on matters digital and, if you can’t say something nice (or constructive, which I hope this review is), then don’t say it. Overall, it’s a good show so check it out if this is your kind of thing. And especially if you’re a fan of Club Penguin.