Opening the #FinboroughForFree initative in 2021, Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels is a web series which premiered a new episode each night from 1-28 February, and is now available in its entirety throughout March.
Written by Athena Stevens, whose online play Scrounger gained OffComm accolades in 2020, it was not created for the film medium, but has been repurposed brilliantly for two performers who never meet on screen. Stevens herself plays A, the friend; while Evelyn Lockley plays 1, the girlfriend.
The man who links them together is not shown on screen but is ever present in the narrative. It may be that the play is “not about him”, as Stevens asserted in a press Q&A, but I felt him cleverly defined and developed in his absence.
The first episode “How it Starts” focuses on 1’s decision to send a sexy photo to her older boyfriend while he is having Sunday lunch at his parents with his best friend, A. Everything that follows in the rest of the series follows this one decision on impulse, and looks at issues around consent, coertion, control and more.
Filmed on a iPad in the respective performer’s homes (which are places of absolute beauty in themselves), and lit mainly from the natural and present light sources found there, Late Night Staring At High Res Pixels plays with the idea of looking, of what we show and what we hide, and how we perceive ourselves and others.
Co-produced with Aegis Productions (Stevens is their artistic director), and directed by Lily McLeish at a distance utilising Zoom, this was planned out very like a filmed production, with each episode fully storyboarded and then full access given to Stevens’s and Lockley’s houses to find interesting places to shoot.
This series can be watched piecemeal on consecutive nights, or binge-watched as a whole: I found myself impatient to see what was going to happen next, such was the quality of the writing, the acting, and the production. This isn’t necessarily the tale you think it will be, but it certainly provides much food for thought.
Designer Anna Reid used the spaces she had to set up areas which feel homely but also fit the characters and their changing circumstances and emotional states as the piece progresses.
This is clearly the result of a tight collaboration between Reid and McLeish, and lighting designer Anthony Doran, and they have created a series of short films which look amazing throughout.
The triangular situation which moves throughout this web series never feels forced, and if Lockley’s aside that it is “exposing to work in your own home, wearing your own clothes” it didn’t come across to anyone detriment.
These women – actors and characters – open themselves out and engage completely with this story of female friendship, strength, and vulnerability. Their performances are uniformly strong and effective.
I really liked how 1 and A are equal within this piece: they usually appear seperately, with an equal number of episodes devoted to each and a handful of episodes where they speak together on the telephone.
There are moments where, as a viewer, you feel uncomfortable about what is being said or unsaid, and a couple of times I really wanted to intervene and force the story in another direction.
This is a brilliant piece of digital theatre which will repay many rewatches, as there are layers of text, of colour, and focus. There’s a lot to unpick through these complex characters and that one little “gift” 1 wanted to share with her partner.
A’s work as a photographic retoucher gives an interesting perspective on how images are seen, used and shared. It’s a modern minefield, often seen purely through the prism of the male gaze. Here it is so much more.