13/03/2014 - 16/03/2014
When Jason falls for a girl at his favourite video store, he turns to the one place he can trust for advice – the internet. The 2013 New Zealand Fringe (Wgtn) hit is rebooted for Dunedin Fringe 2014, an acerbic black comedy about our lives online, our lives offline, and the fragile barriers that separate the two.
Jason Stegemann is a guy with a lot on his shoulders. An awkward university dropout, Jason works a dead-end supermarket job and has a volatile flatmate with serious issues of his own. Frustrated with life, Jason frequently escapes to the only place he can be himself – the Nothing is Original forums, an internet meeting-place for fans of popular culture and media. So when Jason falls for Brie, a girl who works at his favourite video store, he immediately turns to the friends and followers he’s cultivated online. But a likable new poster with an encyclopaedic knowledge of My Little Pony is threatening his top dog status, and his threads are dogged by a persistent troll. Under attack from all corners, Jason’s internet life starts to collapse around him – and it might just take his real life with it.
A runaway hit at the 2013 New Zealand Fringe Festival and shortlisted for the Playmarket Playwrights b4 25 competition 2013, Leaving Party present an all-new Rageface, rebooted for Dunedin audiences. A kinetic and acerbic black comedy, Rageface interrogates our lives online, our lives offline, and the complex network of secrets and lies keeping them apart.
Real life. It’s serious business.
March 13, 14, 15, 16
The Playhouse Theatre
Online Tickets: $12
Door Sales: $15
Dash Tickets (0800 327 484)
The Playhouse Theatre
31 Albany St, Dunedin 9016
Writer/Director: Adam Goodall
Producer: Clementine Flatley
Lighting: Christian Heinze-Rowney
Sound/Music: Zac Nicholls
Complex ideas impressively explored
Review by Sharon Matthews 14th Mar 2014
Rageface, written and directed by Adam Goodall, is a grimly frightening tale of a young man in retreat from reality into a world of on-line forums.
In real-life, Jason / Sherlock (an impressive performance by Andrew Brinsley-Pirie) is a university dropout with a crummy job and an aggressive flatmate, Liam (Allyn Robins). On-line, Jason is a respected and eloquent poster on (in?) a popular culture forum called ‘Nothing is Original.’ Life in the real-world seems to be looking up for Jason though. He meets a flesh-and blood woman, Brie (Annica Lewis), who appears to like him.
When Jason’s seemingly secure online identity and community status is threatened by a newer, more popular poster (Noni, played convincingly by Miriam Noonan) and a persistent troll, his internet life starts to collapse around him. Scarily, Jason’s sense of self is so emotionally bound up with this identification that, as his online position crumbles, so does his real world self.
Rageface is an impressive piece of ensemble theatre which draws heavily upon the physicality of the actors. The bodies of the actors form walls, supermarket aisles, and even café stools. While all of the actors achieve a very high standard of performance — particularly Anisha Hensley Wilson (Madrugada) and Helen Fearnley (Allison) who do well with comparatively less fleshed out characters — stand-outs for me are Jakub Green (as the Bros), Robins, and Elliott Phillips as the incredibly annoying Pierce.
I am fascinated by the way in which the actors engage the audience in (face-to-face) conversation at the beginning of the show, not only blurring the invisible wall between audience and stage, but also breaching the boundaries of the constrained world that they then enact for us. Intriguingly, although the subject matter is high tech, the realisation of the on-line world is endearingly lo-tech. Actors talk to each other via tin-cans on long strings, and the forum ‘Nothing is Original’ is replicated on stage using an old-fashioned overhead projector and handwritten transparencies. In an odd way, the veneer of childlike innocence this adds to the show highlights the darker themes below the surface.
Goodall is playing with complex ideas here: how we construct identity both on and off-line; the relationship between the internet and anonymity; and ultimately, how the internet has changed our understanding of the nature of community. In an interview, Goodall states that he is not intending the production to be an indictment of internet projects. He acknowledges that they can be helpful and positive for some people, but notes that there can also be a dark side that “doesn’t always ring so positive. Like anything that can become obsessive, there are also caveats.”
I can’t say that I ‘enjoyed’ Rageface. Some scenes — such as the one in which Jason meets, in real-time the woman, he has been discussing with his on-line forum ‘friends’ — are agonizing to watch. Brinsley-Pirie’s strong portrayal of Jason’s underlying tension and anger woke me at 3am with uncomfortable pictures in my head.
Nonetheless, I’m glad I saw this play. It is an impressive piece of work that opens up for me a world beyond my experiences and challenged many of my Luddite assumptions about the nature of on-line ‘reality.’ Goodall is clearly a talent well worth following — and I mean that in a real world sense. I look forward to seeing future productions of such a high standard from Leaving Party.
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