Review: Something Awful, VAULT Festival

The internet is a scary place which only becomes scarier still when the on-screen chaos and storytelling leaks into our own lives. Something Awful blurs the line between reality and fiction, as three young teens allow online horror stories to impact their previously innocent lives in an irreversible fashion. The lights go up and down depending on whether something ‘terrifying’ is happening, gum is mercilessly cut out of hair and friendships are ruined as Something Awful, inspired by the Slenderman phenomenon, manages to create an honest account of a dysfunctional and bullying friendship groups while adding a hint of horror into the mix. 

New girl, Ellie (Melissa Parker), is rough around the edges and breaks up the established and isolating dynamic created by best friends Soph and Jel, the stereotypical high school nerds. Ellie’s intrusion into the group leads to a sinister end, aided and abetted by popularity, newfound solidarity and the internet.

Natalya Martin’s Soph leads the play with monologued tales, she is engaging in her retelling of real-life fearmongering found on free to use social sites. Martin’s character is brutal and innocent, initially against befriending Ellie until the lovely Jel (Monica Anne) sweetly encourages her to participate in their game of stories, she is not thanked later. The friction between Soph and Ellie quickly transforms into dark partnership while Jel must fend for herself. 

It’s a loaded subject. How much freedom should we afford our children in an ever unstable and free to reign world? Is the growth of sites like Tumblr and Reddit counterproductive to their health, even though it increases our global reach and can – on occasion – contribute to creativity and encourage socialisation for those that find it difficult in person? Something Awful indeed answers that question with a loaded gun. 

It’s easy to blame the internet and harder to blame oneself for the unhappiness that’s amplified online. 

Discussions of discovered and messy periods, suggestions of abusive dads and hidden eating disorders all contribute to a well-rounded and explored female experience. Somewhat overlooked and taboo topics are casual mentions and yet feed into this turbulent tale, the characters become indirectly well rounded. Writer Tatty Hennessy has a quick wit and cuts the normal with a comedic edge, Anne shines with her serious comedic tone, while Director Lucy Jane Atkinson consolidates the day to day school cheer with much darker themes. Real life is so much more than a scary story.

Something Awful is playing at the Vaults until the 2 February. For more information and tickets, see the VAULT Festival website.