I’d Be Lost Without It by Wet Picnic
Stratford Circus Arts Centre (Short walk from Stratford Circus)
1 hour, no interval
Veronica Stein, 19th March, 2018
Discomforting comfort in a wild ride
Upon arrival at Wet Picnic’s ‘seminar’, I’d Be Lost Without It, you are given a pair of headphones and asked to make yourself comfortable. ‘Comfortable’ in this case is not so easy to achieve, for there is not a chair in sight- only a large square on the floor and labels around the perimeter: love, nourishment, procreation, and knowledge. We soon learn that these are the four things to be gained through our participation in the ‘log on’ world, otherwise known as the internet. So begins a wild ride through this innovative company’s exploration of our media usage, including memes galore and the essential questions: are we actually acquiring the ‘nourishment’ this log on world claims to provide?
Visually engrossing, clever in its devising, and whimsical when needed, this is immersive theatre at its finest. We are given directions through our headphones to access this log on world, and made to interact with each other in unpredictable ways. This works fantastically to open up the room and to parody our online interactions- how awkward can strangers be in person when we now make many of these connections online? How do we expect to send indecencies to new tinder matches but not look a stranger in the eye? As the structure gets faster and looser, reflecting the way we use the internet, the piece continues to hold a mirror up to our contemporary, largely virtual society.
This subtle send-up of our modern media customs only gets wittier as I’d Be Lost goes on, and reflecting on it after the performance I find more aspects of it that are subversive and surprising that only feature as small details. The aesthetic choices of banner ads feature heavily, but are accompanied by dark factoids we’d rather ignore about our use of technology. The “Congratulations! People are dying” shtick would be a teensy bit contrived, except for the fact that the performers are charismatic and contain bundles of energy.
Also noteworthy is the steadfast neutrality of the production- and though that term might induce fear of a wishy-washy message, instead we are treated to a refreshingly nonjudgmental experience. Though overwhelmingly negative facets are certainly introduced and expressed, it is not with a sermon that they are presented to us. Though the physical bits leave something to be desired, they are not the core of the piece and barely detract from the otherwise strong, bold storytelling.
Wet Picnic’s I’d Be Lost Without It has managed to cover topical material in a truly original way, with a singular voice. Being immersed in it is bizarre but tantalizing and the writing follows suit: Director Matt Feerick and company have managed to craft a unique experience that enchants as well as provokes. Productions of this sort are few and far between.
Performed by: Graeme Cockburn, Alex Bird, Emma Brand, Jack Goldbourne, Grace Lambert, Ana Mirtha
Director: Matt Feerick
Designer: Matt Lloyd
Sound Designer: Ross Flight
Props Consultant and Costume Designer: Alice Lessing
Lighting Designer: Jonathan Samuels
Scientific Collaborator: Dr. Daria Kuss