The Other Room, Cardiff
The latest show in the Spring Fringe season at The Other Room is a high- (or perhaps medium-) tech piece which premièred on the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.
See-Through takes its lead from concerned newspaper stories suggesting that young people perceive becoming video bloggers or YouTubers as viable and indeed desirable career options, inspired by the notoriety and financial success achieved by individuals who have showcased various (or even no) skills on such Internet platforms.
As we walk in, writer-performer Claire Gaydon, clad in black tracksuit bottoms and sweatshirt, sits on the stage, her back to the audience, surrounded by breakfast items. She is busy on her laptop computer—the screen is projected onto the back wall of the performance area.
The show proper begins with Gaydon getting up and singing an R&B-style song, using a water-bottle as a microphone and still not facing us as she plays out a fantasy of celebrity with which everyone can identify.
Back at her desk, she addresses us via her computer screen. Interspersing autobiographical detail with (one hopes) fiction, she tells of her religious upbringing in Lincolnshire, her going to drama school, her limited success thus far, and the idea of starting a YouTube channel in order to raise her profile as an actress.
We see video footage of her enlisting the aid of friends—a web-designer, a musician, a photographer—and her amdram-loving mother to enhance her online presence. We also watch a reconstruction of her online research process, which involves investigating those YouTubers who have achieved remarkably high viewing numbers and sponsorship earnings via their expertise at playing video games or giving make-up tutorials.
Inspired by this, she decides to stage public challenges to playfully display her performance skills—this was almost scuppered in the performance I attended when the first audience member she selected to help her demonstrate did not feel up to participating; luckily, others were less shy.
When this fails to help her achieve a significant number of views, she takes another route—attempting to become an “influencer” by talking candidly about her sex life and recreational drug use. When this proves successful (although some of the comments posted underneath her videos are predictably unpleasant), she becomes even more confessional—with unfortunate results in respect of family relationships.
The show seems to start out as a parody of shallow, fame-obsessed millennials. As drama supersedes satire and the emotional stakes are raised, the laughter fades. At the conclusion, however, there is some relief from our unease.
See-Through is very cleverly done, both in terms of its technical presentation (believably home-made), and its (presumably) reality-bending storytelling. Gaydon creates a relatable onstage persona rather than, as might have been the case, an insufferably and groundlessly egotistical one.
Much slicker than it lets on, this is a fascinating, insightful hour of occasionally cringeworthy entertainment.