Occasionally We Skype addresses on the all-pervasive concept that is highly popular within theatre: social media. It focuses on the migration of families from Southeast Asia to England and how real people have dealt with these real-life issues.
I’m going to go right ahead and admit I’m not inherently part of Southeast Asian culture. As an outsider looking in, the entire production was very new and vibrant to me, and tying it with British culture shows there’s a merging of the two identities, which I think is really interesting in this international 21st century world we’re living in.
However, putting this show under the umbrella of social media theatre doesn’t particularly work. The scenes were too disconnected; they ran on for too long, and it certainly could have been cut down by at least 20 minutes, making it shorter, snappier and more entertaining in the long run. I was never bored but keeping energy high in audiences is imperative.
I don’t have a problem with a production not having a straight narrative; it just felt like it wasn’t tied by its initial theme, Skype. At moments I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, or whether Skype fit into it at all. Inevitably it’s lovely to watch dancers, and artistic director Sonia Sabri has an undeniably strong presence on stage, but I wasn’t really sure what was happening. I didn’t get the point of it.
As with most productions there were some good moments; the music really pulled the production up in my eyes, especially the beatboxing mixed in with the traditional Indian singing, reflecting this merging of British-Asian culture. It’s also always pleasant to listen to live music, and so the multiple instruments that made an appearance were nice. The use of multimedia was also really effective, especially as it meant things ran seamlessly into one another.
It must be recognised that social media is hard to pull off artistically without any hiccups. As it’s so relevant today, each and every audience member is going to have a different opinion on the subject, so it’s harder to please everyone. Doing something that was written two centuries ago is easier because your audience are unlikely to have extensive knowledge on the subject. It’s with this in mind that I commend the company for taking on such a giant topic and putting it on the stage.
There was one moment that affected me, and it was when one of the women focused on the idea that they must be dressed up and polished to call someone on the other side of the world. This really struck a chord with me because there is that idea that you can construct someone else’s perception of you, and that even though you aren’t together physically, you are visually. A kind of separation but a closeness too. This, I feel, is thought-provoking, but they skimmed the surface on this, which is a shame.
It was approached well but didn’t hit the sweet spot. Very hit and miss. A bit more… miss.
Occasionally We Skype played at Southbank Centre. For more information, see the Southbank Centre website.