It doesn’t help matters that the show’s title is so cumbersome. Cats, Selfies and the Scattered Mind of the Incurable Dreamer has very little content in relation to cats, and no dialogue is required for selfies, leaving the production too slanted in the direction of the third element in the title. It would have been more appropriate to call it simply Scattered Minds. A seeming stream of consciousness spoken forth by The Dreamer (Charlotte Higgins) opens proceedings, only to give way to a silence far too long and far too awkward, well outlasting any useful purpose. Even when Misha (Owen Clark) does finally open his mouth, he says little of substance; the long wait has a disappointing end.
There is something very British in The Stranger (Simon Christian) attempting to draw Misha’s attention in the hope of getting served in the Full Moon Café. The narrative begins to go into an increasing number of different strands, and eventually got so bogged down in details it was quite impossible to identify what exactly was going on. Equally impossible were attempts to see how these many strands were supposed to come together or be linked in some way. There’s talk of the bleeding heart of the human condition one moment, and 3D printing the next, and I never got my head around why Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift were name-dropped just once and never spoken of again in the show. There is, in places, a total lack of focus.
A long conversation about eating habits and food wastage is overcooked and contains nothing that the man (or woman) on the Clapham omnibus would have heard elsewhere before. This is not, in itself, unimaginative, as the show contains nothing novel, having drawn all of its words from internet webpages. There is always the prevailing sense, however, that an opportunity was missed to create something more coherent beyond mere jumping from topic to topic with only word association to connect one topic to another.
The play is not without some redeeming features. The ubiquity of selfies is discussed appropriately, if fleetingly; worth noting is the example given of a man who took a selfie with Eastbourne Pier burning in the background in the infamous July 2014 fire. There were contrasts, too, between three elements: the chaotic script, the slow movements in the performance area and the moderate pacing of the play. The Dreamer’s personal tales, whether or not total truths, exaggerations or outright fiction, were substantially more engaging than the rest of the show’s output. She does seem to over-rely on the internet as a solution to problems, believing that someone close to her would not had committed suicide if the web and access to articles on self-help and mental health awareness were more widely available at the time. Make of that what you will.
Not every line could be clearly understood, with characters occasionally raising their voices so loud that their vocals reverberate around the room, but those pieces of dialogue are unfortunately indecipherable. Although practically any topic can be researched online, this does not mean that every source of information is reliable or credible. But I suspect you already knew that, and do not require a show to remind you of that point. The ending was too abrupt, as though the show were abandoned rather than concluded, and left me thinking, “So what?”
Review by Chris Omaweng
The Full Moon Cafe. A junction hidden in the middle of virtual highway. A point where space, time and two strangers come together. An innocent encounter that crumbles, lost in the maze of the information age.
The Internet. A modern symbol of duality, bombarding us information. Sometimes it spreads fear, sometimes it brings hope and sometimes everything gets buried under the stream of cat videos, selfies and countless ads…
Room39 invites you a world transformed into a never ending labyrinth built upon the inability to connect. Perhaps for the first time since humanity existed, the World Wide Web is what brings us so close together and takes us so far apart… And what if our planet was nothing but one never ending web created by a spider?
Cast & Creative Team
Director : Petra Pandora Freimund
Art Director: Anna Soboleva
Assistant Director : Ulrike Ulfer
24 August – 28 August 2016
Running time: 80 mins
269 Westferry Road
London E14 3RS