And Now: The World! is a story about being young in a digital world, more specifically it’s about one young woman trapped in her room, her life and the incomprehensible world outside. This is a woman who comes out right from the start fighting; from the object of her unrequited love to her family, her friends and yes, ultimately the whole world. But neither the play, nor she are quite as you might expect. This is a life online, in the seemingly near future where being the sort of young woman she is expected to be – on trend, hairless and emotionally mute are proving harder than she expected. It’s a very clever and often very funny script about a world where being anything other than famous and fabulous is worthless. This is a woman who is overwhelmed and literally climbing the walls.
A passionate fast moving, often kinetic performance from Jennifer Jackson means that the pace of the play rarely lets up – perfectly echoing the endless intrusions from phones, messages and all the cognitive noise that this young woman both invites and rejects during the course of the play. Jackson captures expertly the borderline ADHD sensory overload of a world that endlessly intrudes.
There are lots of inventive and creative choices from Director Abigail Graham and Designer Sarah Beaton to admire – from the sparse set that has the feel of a futuristic classroom mashed with a corporate toilet or the way Jackson flip-slides the air to choose tunes (lovely work from Music and Sound Designer Nick Powell) her awful attempts at rap, or the portrayal of multiple personalities and multiple messages being chucked like firecrackers at the stage.
At times the humour is fantastically observant, vicious and sharp and we warm to our hero, at times it’s easy to feel a little disassociated – this is a hard girl to like – she deliberately isn’t the moderate, mild, bland young woman that society is prepared to love. She’s purposefully contradictory and self-aware in the meta-therapy way that Lena Durham exploits so well in ‘Girls.’
Sometimes she sounds older than her years, sometimes she’s maybe a little self-referential or preachy, sometimes she sounds like different people – but all of that fits with the near future character that Berg has created. Being hyper-knowing and having a heightened language for everything without fully emotionally connecting with much at all.
Open Works and Company of Angels aim to create art for everyone and make new and experimental theatre, and they are achieving that here. This is fresh immediate powerful theatre that had a packed house at Hackney Showrooms utterly engaged and absorbed for the full hour before they switched their phones back on and went back to their lives.
Review by Roz Wyllie
And Now: The World!
Written by Sibylle Berg | Directed by Abigail Graham | Dramaturge Clare Brennan
Winner of the Theater Heute’s German Play of the Year Award, this solo performance asks what it means to be a young woman in a digital world. And Now: The World! uncovers the harsh anonymity of a life lived online; are human relationships sacrificed in return for a digital existence? Award-winning playwright Sybille Berg, nominated for the most prestigious award for German speaking playwrights, the Mulheim Dramatists’ Award as well as winner of the 2008 Wolfgang-Koeppen-Literaturpreis, dissects a human response to an online world of possibilities.
NATIONAL TOUR: 25th September to 12th November, 2015
27th to 31st October, 2015
Hackney Showroom, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, London E8 2BT