Image – Jack Offord
Upon arrival audience members are asked to download and install "Whatsapp" an encrypted messenger program. You are all added to a group where you can chat among yourselves along with the performer and the characters he portrays throughout the piece which was a nice touch. There are so many things I am an avid fan of in this work, the gaming, the witty memes, the well researched content, the interactive element, the soundtrack, the lighting, the poetic and considered writing and the portal it provided into the online universe.
However the fact they were all happening at once or in close succession actually drew away from the stories and made it harder to engage with. For instance the "Whatsapp" addition worked in some ways but for everything it added I personally felt it took away twice as much. Many important plot points and moments got lost in the stream of messages (similar to what happens in most chat rooms) and notifications from an entire audience of mobile phones not on silent did not help. My heart went out to the elderly couple beside me who did not know how to open or operate the application from the start but were too modest to look on my phone to compensate.
Simply put I wanted to spend more time with each of the different characters, their story lines and the group chat. The brutality of the internet and the groups that form behind the anonymity of it are large scary behemoths in and of themselves. That could easily be discussed deeply and at length for longer than 70mins no interval. The only reprieve from the onslaught of information was meta engagement from the actor in the moments between which was welcome and perhaps the most engaging aspect.
In regards to the form and trans media approach, there is not enough of this type of theatre in the circuit, more please.
Arts House and Melbourne Knowledge Week present
The Believers Are But Brothers
by Javaad Alipoor & Kirsty Housley
Venue: Arts House | North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne VIC
Dates: 22 – 25 May 2019
Tickets: $35 – $25