Bigot, a piece of new writing by Hassan Govia, explores the nature of online abuse. It dissects how incendiary comments can turn into arguments and spiral out of control on the internet. Only an hour-long, it is a fast-paced fringe show that is inventive in its approach.
The show is packed to the brim with different devices and techniques — film is used frequently; physical theatre punctuates the discussion and audience participation is relied upon, too. I certainly feel engaged and alert as a result. This may be just a two-hander, exploring one topic in depth, but we are kept on our toes, not quite sure of what to expect next. However, I would say that guaranteeing the quality over quantity of these techniques would be a better approach. Some feel a little unnecessary and the physical theatre certainly suffers, feeling unpolished and inconsequential. I must say, I felt the familiar structure of a GCSE Drama piece creeping in, where candidates tend to cram as many theatrical devices as possible into a short period of time. The use of film is excellent though and so a more focused approach would allow this particular element to shine through more.
Govia is naturally so likeable, in spite of playing the increasingly bigoted, For. He is sassy and funny at turns, whilst Jess Pentney’s performance is just a little contrived. A highlight of the play is when audience members are placed in the position of trolls, finally getting their chance to hurl abuse at For and Against in person. Audience members are instructed to open their envelopes containing short scripts and Govia and Pentney interact brilliantly with them, really drawing us into their outrage. The actors’ ability to be teary at one moment and then joyfully screeching to ‘fuck your motherfucking cunt’ the next is thrilling to behold. It perfectly sums up the tempestuous nature of social media and its suitability to outrage.
By the end of the show, the stage is messy with props that are poorly made and too heavily relied upon. The strength of the actors and writing is great enough that copious props are unnecessary. Thus, the direction does not seem to be resourceful or carefully considered at all. Lose the frivolous technical crutches and at the heart of Bigot is a cleverly written voyage through the world of online hate.
Bigot played Camden People’s Theatre until 24 July 2021. For more information, see Camden People’s Theatre online.