maiko bae yamamoto & james long

I have said this before under different circumstances, but I firmly believe that YouTube video comments represent some of the worst of humanity. This is not compared to things, of course, like genocide, rape, torture and the dropping of the atomic bomb, although there are YouTube comments that support, glorify and eroticize all these things. WeeTube, “part performance, part parlour game” closing tomorrow May 29th at 5:00pm at “Neptune’s no less important, but tinier space” as part of Eastern Front Theatre’s Supernova Theatre Festival, uses these comments to create a hilarious piece of theatre that both pokes fun at the absurdity of this dialogue and also, potentially, raises questions about what such inane, sometimes hateful, often inarticulate and full of rage comments tell us about our own contemporary culture.

The set for this show is expansive and incorporates various set and costume pieces ransacked from Neptune Theatre’s costume and props department (and other shows running in the festival) by WeeTube’s delightful pair of performers, James Long and Maiko Bae Yamamoto from Theatre Replacement in Vancouver, and set up to create four unique spaces onstage. There is a little oven where Yamamoto bakes cookies for the audience, a microwave for popcorn to share and a refrigerator filled with booze which both our performers drink liberally throughout the show. Most importantly, is their laptop, which projects YouTube videos onto a huge screen dominating the back wall.

These videos are divided into categories that violate the YouTube Safety Guide: 1. If You Feel Unsafe, Tell an Adult 2. The Grandmother Test 3. WTF!?. There are five videos in each category and the audience chooses three of these to be played on the giant projector and enjoyed together. After the video ends, Long and Yamamoto perform the first five or six minute of YouTube comments verbatim in alternating fashion and then move on to the next video. It sounds simplistic, it likely doesn’t even sound like theatre, especially since Yamamoto and Long don’t even memorize their lines, they listen to a pre-recording of the comments on their IPods and recite what they hear as they hear it. Theatrically, however, this is a communal experience like one that is rare in the theatre and the show that these two performers have created is fascinating in its ability to be so superficial, really a celebration almost of the inane, the mindless and uneducated stupidity of some individuals, mostly adolescents, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. Yet, as Erin Sheilds (who was in the audience of the performance I attended) acutely pointed out in the Talk Back session following the show, this play does raise pertinent questions for those looking for them about the state of humanity.

The first great aspect of this show is communally watching the YouTube videos, because it really is a bonding experience for the audience to share in something that has become such an inherent cultural tradition, but also one that we recognize as being a very recent sort of phenomenon. We watch videos that nearly the entire audience of strangers have seen before, The Baby PandaSneezing, for example and the Tro Lo Lo Guy. We also watch videos that maybe we haven’t seen before, but that evoke the exact same visceral experience from everyone in the theatre. There was one, entitled “Dog Pukes after Sex” where the entire audience reacted at the exact moment when the dog vomited in a similar way. We also had communal reactions to pain, as in watching a brutal video of a matador getting punctured in the face by the horn of a bull and to the sheer power of terrific awkwardness, as in the Creepy Weird Hippie Yoga TeacherFarmer, which was tense in a painful way, but a tension that bound us all together.

Secondly, as horrifically dumb as most of the comments that are recited to us are, many summed up in misspelled words or Internetspeak and as absolutely ridiculous and childish and completely useless the arguments and “debates” are that the website so often spurs, it is actually hilarious to hear them read aloud. The stupidity of it all is almost triumphant in this context and we are really given a taste of the tone and vernacular of these chosen words from the aggressive adolescent vying to post the nastiest word he knows to the xenophobic and the homophobic sprouting ignorance and hatred and the random university students seeking to contextualize and educate the masses amidst a sea of “lolz” and “faggots” and “hahahahahahahahas” and “awwwwwws” and “epic fails.” It makes me question why they try to engage in an arena that seems so morosely hopeless, and it also makes me wonder what is making these young people so filled with rage and hatred. What makes them use the anonymity that the Internet provides to scream obscenities and bully one another? Is it more prominent among the youth of a certain demographic? What will become of these kids? How seriously should we be examining this issue or is it even an “issue” at all?

When the subject of why our two performers don’t memorize their lines came up, Long suggested that not having to cement a certain pattern for the show in his memory meant that each night could have more fluidity and be a completely different show from the night before. Indeed, the audiences pick different videos each night, and apparently new ones are added to the repertoire frequently. It’s odd to think that having your lines fed to you can make an actor’s performance fresher, but in this case, that argument seems to hold up. There is something really immediate and communal about this show, one that is easy to connect with in a very unpretentious way, but that also is using theatricality and performativity in a way that seem to sometimes undermine the conventions of the theatre but still achieves a lot of the same objectives as a more traditional play.

Imagine if you will, the land of YouTube. You know what kind of vile, nasty, obscene, offensive, racisist, homophobic, masochistic, dirty, disgusting, vomit-inducing videos and comments that are peppered among the kittens, the babies and the videos of people falling over. If this sounds like a World that you would like to examine more closely than WeeTube is surely a show worth seeing. If you feel like you may be offended, you probably will be. 
WeeTube plays one more time at the Neptune Studio Theatre on Sunday May 289h at 5pm. Tickets for adults are $25.00, Seniors/DND/Arts Workers $20.00, Students $15.00. Check the complete schedule of shows here.
May 18-29, 2011
Adults $25, Seniors/DND/Arts Workers $20, Students $15

*Same day, multiple show discount. We encourage you to catch a double (or triple or quadruple!) header. Your first ticket is full price, however if you purchase tickets for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th show on the same day, those tickets are 50% off.
In person: 1593 Argyle Street Phone: 902-429-7070 Online
All prices include HST.
Neptune service charges for phone and online orders not included.

See you at Supernova!

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