The Colab Factory’s underground space is home to Factory Irregular, whose premiere of Together at the Camden Peoples Theatre has been reprised at the immersive Borough venue for a three-night run.
A trio of broadcasters are harboured at separate stations, each one guarded by a television screen. Makeshift scenes are constructed about them, along with personal items, laptops and smartphones. Iris (played by Yujing Yan), a Chinese student, stands at a table organised by her drawing tools. Fairy lights hang behind, limp upon a yard of gauze. She speaks softly, and responds to the messages that appear on her live video feed, some of which are sent by the audience themselves.
Prior to entering the broadcasting room, participants are given a sheet naming the characters, and with a brief description of their social media profiles. A link to an interactive site sits at the bottom, which permits its user to communicate anonymously with the performers.
Dressed in a Miley Cyrus onesie, a pink flat cap and matching glasses, Ragda (Smaragda Kara) is the second online personality. He wears a blonde wig, and rarely stops talking. Dialogue pours forth profusely, his temperament and language similar to that of well-known celebrities made famous by reality television. As well as text-based messages, audience members can also send a heart or ‘Hankey’, the infamous poop emoji. These hieroglyphs draw an enthusiastic response from both Kara and Iris, with little or no reaction from Luke (Piotr Mirowski), our final virtual companion.
The lack of context surrounding Luke is demonstrative of his stale charisma. Wrapped in a sweater vest and fenced in by a large wooden desk, he is an advocate of the AI Church. In this case, a speech on the subject is being streamed to the entire room.
Each broadcast is played simultaneously, a confusing directorial decision, as the event has no cohesion whatsoever. Voices and music blare from separate corners of the space, tangling in the air, leaving the viewer both stimulated and uninterested. More needs to be done to immerse the audience – if further emphasis were to be put on set and lighting design, the theatrical experience would benefit greatly. As it is, the production is built upon an interesting conceptual framework, but its execution is threadbare.
All at once, the screens freeze: “Error: lost network or connectivity”. This abrupt loss of the online sphere begins to encourage direct address from the actors – a welcome change of pace, but again, inconsistent. Only Luke breaches the audience-performer divide, while the other two broadcasters decline offline conversation in favour of more private activities.
Together feels unfinished, particularly as there is not enough content to reinforce eighty-minute’s worth of entertainment. Perhaps Factory Irregular should consider promenade performance to guide its audience through each broadcast, or at the very least, supply them with a completed world within which there are more definite performative boundaries.
Together was at Colab Factory until May 16th. For more details, click here.