Written and Directed by Suguru Yamamoto, Theater Collective Hanchu-Yuei (2022), Japan
“Can our times be laughed at and forgiven? The group offended people again and again. The people who offended them would mostly harass them remotely, but never in front of the group. A group that does not feel offended will forget their wrongs and do things to offend people again.”
“The performance addresses our current situation of cyber-bullying, media overload, and interpersonal isolation in our pandemic times.”
Although set and performed in Japan, the issues around social media and video platform influence are the same worldwide. Chat, music, and thumbnails all feature.
The group of young people who live to entertain, gain followers, and gain approval seem to only really react when performing a heightened version of self for an audience.
It is a fascinating watch as each pushes the others into becoming something quite alien, rather ridiculous, and, as one fan says, “creepy and crazy.”
Without a camera, these people are simply ordinary, mundane, and yes, without influence. Yamamoto asks us to reflect on what influence actually is and whether it is a force for good or evil.
Behind a screen and on a keyboard, it is easy to say whatever you want and to cause harm to others; we have seen it since the early days of internet bulletin boards through to video cat-calling to captive followings.
Dig – Dig – Flaming! I Am Not a Robot starts with a sense of lightness but becomes darker as an offscreen voice commands the group to “apologise” by death or livestream. As we know, some have taken both paths at the same time.
It is all about the algorithm, the competition, and the attention. This is a production that thrives on the absurdity of transient fame while focusing on serious matters concerning the real people behind created persona and avatars.
I found it hard to really like, and at 94 minutes, it is a little long, but there is plenty of innovation and this digital capture perfectly catches the mood of the live show without sacrificing what an in-person audience would see.
Image credit: Suzuki Ryuichiro