Fb – Public Area evaluation – social-media musical swipes at Fb | Stage
A laptop cursor clicks on the instruction “Add as friend”, and our screens speak in confidence to a theatre set the place two millennials sing: “We came here to find friends, and just like that we felt a little less alone.” Fb’s digital motifs – thumbs up symbols and love hearts – float round them to provide the impression they’re contained in the social media web site.
This staged musical live performance, streamed by Southwark Playhouse, takes Fb’s mission to empower communities and democratise voices as its start line, however traces a line from that utopian supreme to the Pandora’s field that has opened up round social media platforms in current occasions, from the rise of self-promoting influencers to faux information, information misuse and Fb’s privateness scandal.
Written and carried out by Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke, it’s an unique and edgy present whose guide and lyrics are totally made up of phrases spoken throughout on-line and social media communities over the previous yr. A lot of its satire comes from this verbatim authenticity and makes its topics sound all of the extra hole and narcissistic.
The largest swipes are at Fb: we hear Mark Zuckerberg’s interviews, his congressional testimony of 2018 and the jaded tales of two of its former moderators. However sharper and extra scrumptious satire come within the unrelated tales of two vloggers: Millie, a groomed influencer carried out to pitch-perfection by Forristal, and Z, performed by Clarke, who additionally, convincingly, doubles up as Zuckerberg. Their musings are intertwined with extra severe points, however it’s these gleeful parodies that convey the present alive.
“I hate myself,” says Z, whereas Millie speaks with relentless, glassy-eyed good cheer. She is a implausible creation – a Frankenstein’s monster of social-media homilies who talks about wellness and day by day affirmations in a single breath, and Instagram filters for her pimples the subsequent, and reminds her subscribers to “make sure you’re following my socials”. Forristal captures all of the generic tics, expressions and mannered glottal stops of a slick, Essex-born influencer or reality-TV star. Z is extra angsty, however simply as vapid: “Why is there a hair in my frigging contact [lens], he says to his followers, and later: “This is like therapy.”
The present, directed by Adam Lenson, is a mashup of theatrical efficiency and movie strategies whose wizardry goes far past only a break up display. The actors sing on an empty stage, however digital montages are layered on high of the stay drama: on-line adverts, floating emojis and information experiences. There’s additionally lip-synching to footage of Zuckerberg, voiceovers to the motion on stage, and pop-up containers alongside the perimeters of our display. A number of the digitalised content material comes at a reasonably excessive velocity and, as intelligent as it’s in its hybridity, it leaves our consideration barely scattered.
Technical difficulties on its first evening of stay streaming left important pauses and glitches. If there’s a thrilling unpredictability to stay efficiency, it’s much less tolerable in digital format, and right here it marred the circulation of the musical. Not each tune works both and Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings develop laborious as they’re re-enacted in lengthy, courtroom-style battles with senators.
As a drama, it looks like a sequence of sketches or parodies – relatively like a millennial model of Useless Ringers, with out fairly sufficient narrative growth to its tales. And whereas it touches on essential points, from privateness to on-line incitement to violence, censorship and the harmful energy of social media behemoths like Fb, these are talked about relatively than grappled with in any depth.
The satire and pastiche stay glorious although, and it provides a better, real-world catharsis to anybody who has felt disenchanted by on-line communities throughout lockdown.