In a rigorous debate about everything and nothing, For (Hassan Govia) and Against (Jess Pentney) are at least willing to continue discussions with one another online, and with others, which is more than can be said for some who prefer to disengage by ‘blocking’ anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint. There is nothing in Bigot that criticises anyone who does use the block facility, and there is something almost admirable about the characters’ tenacity in pursuing their respective lines of argument. They find common ground by, ironically, continuing to hold their own assertions to be true irrespective of third party opinions. Whether they are correct or not does not, in the end, appear to be the point the production is trying to get across.
Rather, the show raises a point about online content being difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of entirely, especially if someone else has made a copy of the said content. One might, for instance, change their mind about something, perhaps in the light of new information that the person wasn’t previously aware of. Or someone might make an honest mistake, tweet something that later turns out to be untrue, and then delete it. I know I’ve screenshotted social media content which I found to be hilariously incorrect for future reference. Bigot is not preaching ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ but asks if it is sometimes worth taking a step back and consider things like context. Something may have been written in a sarcastic tone, for example.
If judgement were to be rained down on anyone and everyone who ever made an error in life, this would, in effect, take the ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ principle to the point where, as Tevye points out in Fiddler on the Roof, “the whole world will be blind and toothless”. Now, there is a smattering of (entirely voluntary) audience participation, which helps to maintain interest, as do some video projections of news bulletins and clips from other television shows. The show covers a lot of ground in an hour, and it is easy to become confused in the various arguments and counter-arguments being thrown about at breakneck pace, and I’m not sure I fully managed to get my head around it all even after some post-show thought on the Tube home.
One of the more memorable points in the play considers the concept of free speech: can someone say whatever they want simply because they want to say it? Let’s say someone thinks, for whatever reason, that the Earth is flat. Should they be banned from social media for holding a largely refuted viewpoint? As confusing and convoluted as life can be, the dialogue is at times infantile (not because it is a poorly written script, but because it mimics the kind of discussions that can go on in online forums) and at other times profound. The show impressively combines petty circular bickering with depth and insight into the world of internet trolling and cancel culture.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Once a statement is made online, it can seldom be taken back. What happens when people don’t like what you have to say? What if you had the opportunity to confront your trolls in the flesh? And who’s to say you’re not the troll?
Bigot sees two disagreers under fire after expressing their conflicting viewpoints online. A physical, timely and explosive exploration of the negative repercussions of freedom of speech, using absurdism to take aim at the nature of disagreements, the reactivity of social media, and the horrors of internet trolling and cancel culture.
Dates 23-24 July 2021
Venue Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PY