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WOW EVERYTHING IS AMAZING at Battersea Arts Centre

Sounds Like Chaos - WOW Everything Is Amazing - BAC & Albany. Photo Ali Wright
Sounds Like Chaos – WOW Everything Is Amazing – BAC & Albany. Photo Ali Wright

There was something called The Great Switch that precipitated events leading up to a supposed future utopia in Wow Everything Is Amazing. The details are rather sketchy, but there was a group of people, all young and all intelligent (presumably as opposed to ‘old’ and ‘senile’) who were somehow singled out for the purposes of the Godhead who calls himself a Trinity (a Trinity of what, I couldn’t work out). They have become part of a ‘network’, which has the hallmarks of a cult rather than a religion. One of them wishes to connect with those outside the network, which isn’t, at least at face value, a bad idea, seeing as the Godhead and his parishioners (for that is what they are) are looking to make the world a better place.

But he’s told that contact with the world beyond their network is futile – all his needs and desires, passions and fantasies, can be fulfilled within the network. Like many dangerous cults, there are encouragements to ‘donate’, though as this cult worships technology, the donations will result in ‘upgrades’, presumably of programs and apps. There’s no indication, however, that members of the network ever do anything other than devote themselves to their cause. There’s no discernible paid work going on, so how do these people make a living? It also isn’t explained, for instance, who exactly pays for all this infrastructure, computer servers, hardware and software, and so on.

If technology will have moved on at some point in the future to the extent that the show suggests, why do the members of the network need to physically meet together as regularly as they do? I would have thought that some form of video-conferencing or whatever the equivalent of Facebook Live would be in a generation or two from now would be the best way to disseminate information at once. Then again, perhaps the irony is not lost on these intellectuals, who continue to satisfy a very human desire to be in one another’s company, even in the context of formal pseudo-church services.

The order of service, which generally constitutes something akin to the hymn-prayer sandwich followed by a motivational talk which might as well be a sermon, is sufficiently amusing for the audience, observing it all from the outside in. Parishioners must assent by seeing ‘Agree and Proceed’ in place of ‘Amen’, and one ‘testimony’, if that’s the right word for someone called on to make unprepared remarks, speaks of a time (2019, say) when people still had voice telephone calls in real time, requiring both parties to be present and connected simultaneously.

The singing is varied, by which I mean it encompasses a variety of styles of music, though by and large it is more ‘evangelical’ than ‘orthodox’. There are some intriguing observations made, especially when it is proven that the network can be destabilised after all – and much more besides. The video projections were more than helpful in adding atmosphere to proceedings. Some enthusiastic dancing was cheered by the audience, including one of the youngest in this company of teenagers and young adults perfectly executing a backflip.

While the narrative could have been fleshed out more (even if it meant a running time long enough to justify an interval: this production barely lasts an hour), there are one or two unexpected twists in the story. Without in any way being preachy – quite an achievement given the ‘churchy’ gatherings, complete with hands in the air and even convulsions – this production has much to say about what could quite feasibly happen with regards to data protection and privacy rights online. Much food for thought is provided in this fast-paced and energetic production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

WOW is part of Homegrown Festival: Occupy, a month-long showcase for underrepresented communities, collectives, entrepreneurs, young artists and activists occupy all corners. It is curated by Saad-Eddine Said as part of Up Next – a partnership between Artistic Directors of the Future, the Bush Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre, which hands the keys of two London theatres over to visionary artists of colour. It is also a key show in the Rebel Season at the Albany, a season about politics, protest, breaking the mould and celebrating difference and will tour with Incoming Festival to Deptford, Manchester and Bristol in June; and Incoming Festival, celebrating the best in emerging theatre from across the UK.

Wow Everything is Amazing is co-produced by the Albany, commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre and supported by New Diorama and the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation. For more information visit: http://www.soundslikechaos.com/

Conceived and directed by Gemma Rowan and Roisin Feeny
Written by Roisin Feeny
Producer Anna Myers
Executive Producer Sophie Bradey
Lighting design Sarah Readman
Set and costume design Kat Heath
Sound design and composer Keir Vine
Film and projection design VIDEOfeet
Digital Anthropologist Miranda Marcus MSc
Press Management: Ariane Oiticica

Co-produced by the Albany. Commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre and supported by New Diorama and the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.

Sounds Like Chaos and the Albany present
A headline performance as part of Occupy Festival
Battersea Arts Centre, London
Thu 4 – Fri 12 April, 2019 8pm
Press night 8 April, 8pm
@soundslikechaos #everythingisamazing


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