Cats, Selfies and the Scattered Mind of the Incurable Dreamer is a verbal collage; a comedic piece of internet verbatim which is also a loosely coherent narrative about two strangers connecting on the internet. It is set in the Full Moon Café – a realm of imagination and internet fused together – where everything is starkly white and the floor is littered with clippings of literature. The stage at The Space extends far into the middle of the square room, creating an expansive setting into which this piece of physical theatre spreads.
The set looks ambitious for the size of the production, which is in keeping with the ambitiousness of the concept. The interactions between the three characters on the stage are comprised quotes from articles, comments and adverts collected from all over the Internet. The resulting dialogue is a portrait of the Internet: what it feels like to communicate with and within this universe. More specifically, it creates a sense of what it feels like to end up in a horrible, endless and spiralling googling session.
Room39’s production thought carefully and creatively about many aspects of the internet experience and delivered these with a helping of dark humour. I was particularly pleased with their representation of the Internet’s inherent tonelessness. In this script, snippets of language and phrases are recycled and each time presented with a different tone. The Stranger takes on the words of a commenter on a bereavement advice blog, and while offering advice to The Dreamer with sincerity, wounds her with his articulated self-important tone. Advice on breathing techniques to use to quell anxiety are screamed at The Dreamer in a truly funny and enraging rendition of what it feels like to be told how to calm down when calmness feels unobtainable. Owen Clark who played Misha, delivered continually witty renditions of the offensive interruptions of barely related adverts generated by the contents of our internet history.
While there were many ideas to admire in the script and some strong performances from all of the three actors, the play was lacking in structure. This was badly needed to support its meandering narrative. The Dreamer’s relationship to her family bookended the play, but it left a long middle section which felt aimless at times, and much too long. If the production was aiming to echo the formlessness of an Internet session, the whole thing needed to be shorter and a little sharper.
The sound design was good and used effectively to mark a change in the focus of The Dreamer. But I felt as if much more work could have been done musically to relate a sense of the internet experience. The crowdedness of certain corners of the internet was evoked with two characters’ layered speaking in a moment of high tension – but elsewhere the quietness of the stage was noticeable, and at odds with the all-encompassing tendency of the Internet. Though the play was ambitious, in this regard it wasn’t ambitious enough.
The weaknesses in the production were likely due to constraints in the budget and capabilities of the theatre. I was surprised by the intelligence of the interpretation of the Internet experience that was conceived in this production, and glad that its best moments weren’t wholly lost within its generally weak narrative structure.
Cats, Selfies and the Scattered Mind of the Incurable Dreamer played at The Space until August 28. For more information and tickets see The Space.