In ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ you are defined and confined by ‘your’ choices, unwilling spectators to your (and others’) desires. The world is a marketplace and YOU are a commodity.

This interactive, provocative and humorous experience (especially the direct addresses to us as individuals and as group members) provokes the audience to consider if real connections are still possible in today’s atomised society.

Created and performed by the cast ‘Stuart’, ‘Clare’ and ‘Terry’, this sharply observed satire at Ovalhouse (inspired by David Foster Wallace’s short story Mister Squishy ) Focus Group* is set in a market research company (TSC), staffed by eager twentysomethings keen to make a mark in any sphere; real or otherwise.

A table tennis table is at the heart of the action, a site of congregation for (stilted) conversation, the ball’s back and forth trajectory a metaphor for quotidian monotony (albeit strict focus required), the mundanity of ‘life’, the rut and fixed, seemingly immovable career paths.

We experience two strands: Terry’s day (work) and his earnest efforts to relate to his task, probing, grilling and stratifying in the name of statistics, a demoralising exercise that erodes his very self.

His night (post-work), a ‘life’ away from the daily grind is one of microwaved meals, solitary screen viewing in dimly lit environs and a slow disintegration into abject loneliness. Even his dreams are plagued by work, there is no escape, constantly seeking affirmation he has no idea who ‘he’ is.

Terry’s attempts at intimacy with Clare see him misread the situation, he is all suppression and repression, unaware of the social cues due to the vacuity of ‘social’ media with its cultivated profiles. ‘Real’ connections are obscured by fabricated social networking as noted by Stuart: ‘the programme’s a better judge of your personality than the people in your life’.

The audience is split into two groups with both sides played off against the other and asked to look across and guess which one e,g, ‘is single …?’ an arbitrary lifestyle analysis where statistical results equal taste. As an active recipient of Terry’s questioning it becomes a situation of forced emotions and (re)actions and (un)conscious peer influenced responses.

There is an amusing skitercise at the notion of ‘Mr Kipling’: e.g. ‘what colour’s his hair?’, ‘what are his pastimes?’ producing a coerced imagining of this fictional brand figure: humanise the product, you become the product.
This is Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman 2.0 (The slow death of a stats-man) with Terry’s final act (a bite of spite?) a parable for these times.

Catch it while/when/if you can.
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