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.
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?
*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.
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See you at Supernova!