Review: The Emoji Project (Camden Fringe, online)

The Emoji Project is an intergenerational, participatory anthology of new writing responding to emojis as an ever-evolving, nuanced language.”

Presented at the Camden Fringe by Distracted Rat Productions, I am watching the stream recorded at the Hen & Chickens Theatre, and made available from 18 August. Although the stream gets all the stage action across, it misses any sense of interactivity that would be gained from watching the show in person. It does not detract from the show but gives a slightly different experience.

With this in mind, this set of short pieces (sketches?) are loosely based on the power of the ’emoji’ – defined by Wikipedia as “ia pictogram, logogram, ideogram or smiley used in electronic messages and web pages”. In essence, the emoji is a digital icon, a piece of shorthand to represent an emotion or reaction within an online conversation, building on the simple smiley which started from combining a colon with a right bracket – :).

Any anthology which has various different writing voices will both benefit and suffer from contrasting tonal shifts. Clearly some skits and plays will be most effective, and some will be more directly related to emojis than others. Flag-waving comic hysteria bumps elbows with a serious monologue on the development of a lobster emoji. A class explore multiple meanings of visual emojis (I don’t know about you but I often find myself looking at a line of Twitter reaction emojis thinking ‘er, what?’)

Promotional image for The Emoji Project

A running set of pieces by Tilney Brune arounf the topic of monkeys and physical expression is intiguing but needs a bit more development; a gameshow section is funny and brings in our dependence on sedentary entertainment as well as social media.As well as words, The Emoji Project uses sound and movement, light and human connections.

The cast – Laura Rea, Ingrid Marsh, Sarah Louise Pearcey, Oliver Lyndon, Kadine Fontaine, Octavia Fox, James Aldred, Casey Jones and Gabriel Harris – engage energetically with the material. The project is created and dramaturged by Ariella Como Stoain, with three directors (Susie MacDonald, Gabriel Harris, and Annys Whyatt).

Writers Ariella Como Stoain, Tilney Brune, Jalice Corrall, Will Jarvis, Phoebe McIntosh, Farokh Soltani, James Ireland, Alastair Gibbons and Agitya Manivannan “will investigate and play with the meaning of a different emoji, translating its possibility into poetry, participatory work or short plays”. It may not necessarily hang together as a coherent project, but it has something urgent, profound and timely to say.

Fringe rating: *** (and a half)

You can enjoy The Emoji Project on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Si1TW1thyBU.

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