Prowling the internet jungle

Me at the zoo

Birmingham Rep Door

****

ME at the zoo is a debut play by writer Grace Barrington, alumnae of Birmingham REP’s youth theatre.

Performed also by members of the youth theatre, it takes its title from the first video to be uploaded to YouTube and explores the destructive effects of social media websites in today’s world.

In a generation who have grown up in a world where social media encases their everyday lives. The young and talented performers bring an enthusiasm heightened by their experience within social media.

In Barrington’s topical and thought-provoking piece, Me At The Zoo is a reflection of the power of social media networking today. Barrington and the Young REP create an interesting, current and powerful opinion to the way in which social media is shaped.

Tom Mansfield is the director and it is clear through their performance that he has given the cast the confidence to excel and enjoy the process of performing within The Door.

The company consists of five young actors and in every performer, their confidence on stage shines through thanks to their outstanding display of professionalism for such a young company.

In the online world, everyone has the chance to be the person they want to be. Barrington’s script sets the foundations for a great show which reflects this notion. Her solid and clever plot is full of surprises and pays close attention to the intricacies of each character. Throughout the play, it is clear to see that each performer has a great understanding for the depth of their character and the crossover between their reality and the online lives they lead.

Most of the play is set in an online world, where friendship’s and bonds are made over screen. Mansfield does well in creating the difference between real life and the life when the characters are online. Stood under square spotlights, an allusion to the screens they sit and face, actors deliver the dialogue out to the audience as they talk to each other. We see they are physically alone, but united in the collective online networks.me at the zoo

Charlie Bottle seems to be the only person living in the ‘real world’ and desperately wants his peers to see the negatives of social media. In secret, he creates a fake competition to establish a new ‘super’ social network, hoping that his best friend Amy will see his point of view.

Each performer represents a social networking platform. In this production we see Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube. The talent and individualism seen via every actor is fantastic to see and is also a testament to Barrington’s superb creation of believable and well-rounded characters.

Away from the online worlds that have such an influence over the young characters’ lives, we see snippets of their ‘real’ life problems and the reason why they rely on the popularity that social media gives them.

Tumblr Girl has a poisonous relationship with her mother and relies on her online followers to give her the confidence and sense of hope that she cannot find in reality.

Youtube Boy lives with his sickly grandma and finds that online blogging is the only way to release from the pressures of caring for her.

Twitter Girl has a need to bring people together through romantic hopes and start relationships in the online world.

Troll Boy represents every negative comment and fiery debate started online by anonymous users. A screen bully who is bullied by his alcoholic mother, Troll Boy gives a fascinating reflection of the darkness of freedom of speech in an online world.

Charlie, who has no desire to participate in the fake cyber world, has a plan to tell each person what happens online can also affect reality. Charlie thinks that there will be no consequences of his secret plan, but by the end of the play we find out the cruelness of his actions.

It is a strong production and something that Barrington should be proud of creating. It is innovative and extremely current and represents the viewpoints of all of us.

Although the pace was slow in some scenes, this was allowed for as the intricate and heavy plot was handled in an extremely skillful manner. The talent was strong and it would hardly be surprising to  see some performers at the REP in professional productions later in their careers.

Elizabeth Halpin

08-07-15 

Note: No programme or cast list for the performance was available.

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