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Show Me the World
Published on Thursday, 25 August 2011

4 stars

Underbelly, Cowgate (venue website)
4-15, 17-28 Aug, 12:00pm-1:15pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

The characters aren’t new and the concept isn’t all that new either, but sometimes it’s the things that have been tried and tested that work the best. If you take the Fringe guide blurb with a grain of salt (it’s got much less of a connection to cyberspace than they advertise) and embrace this show as a simple story of what I call the ‘iGeneration’, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The production takes a look at the separate lives of some teenagers, all of whom intend to make it to Glastonbury. And really, it’s music, not cyberspace, that takes the stage as a theme. The main characters include a suicidal (and probably schizophrenic) gay teenager, trying to come out; a woman who’s far too career-obsessed and refuses to ‘let go’; and a university-phobic gym junkie in the midst of a relationship crisis. Yes, they’re stereotypes. But I dare you not to let every single one of them tear at your heartstrings.

The technology may be over-sold, but it’s tied in very cleverly. The projection screen at the back broadcasts the Facebook pages, YouTube videos and Skype sessions of all the characters. Each screen you see feels like an intrusion into a private moment – one that’s meant to be just for the characters. The story which uses this device best is Dan’s (the tormented, closeted and bullied teenager), who finds a safe abode in the blogosphere until it lets him down when he reveals he’s gay. The use of tweets and blog entries is absolutely relevant in his case, and it’s the only arc of the production where I felt like the play did what it was advertised to do.

The use of music – both literally and as a theme – is excellent, if not a little preachy. I should point out that a knowledge of 90s music and Glastonbury staples is a good thing to have when you buy your ticket for the show, especially considering the jokes based on the characters’ varying tastes in music. It will make the play a little bit inaccessable to some, but let’s face it – if you’re going to the Underbelly to see a show about cyberspace, Glastonbury and the identity of the youth, you’ll probably know enough about Blur and Muse to get you by.

So no, it might not be the most original show I’ve ever seen, but it certainly is a message for a generation. The company describes the play as “urgent,” and I think the urgency comes from a need to see a reflection of themselves that is not filled with irrelevant tropes made by people that misunderstand them. The vibrancy and youth of the production provides a refreshing look at themes that are as old as Woodstock. It’s a fun and thought provoking seventy-five minutes, and in perhaps the most fitting venue of all; you can use the free wifi to contemplate your own identity while you stave off the stench of vodka and stale beer.

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