From eye-catching Instagram stories to Michelle Obama, Beyond Face bring a very raw and often too real look at the dizzying struggle of modern day storytelling in their latest show 2000 stories. You’ll certainly want to turn your phones off for this one. Possibly permanently.
From shows such as Black Mirror to Russell T Davies’ latest Years and Years it seems that there is a taste at the moment for dystopian panic about how we are all glued to our screens. Although there is plenty of screen screaming panic in 2000 stories, this show bravely digs a little deeper. As director and writer Alix Harris suggests: ‘this is a show about an investigation into empathy’.
From her small apartment we follow Selina (Shiquerra Robertson) as she struggles under the daily weight of expectations we all know to well. An email notification rings out across stage… and another… and another… and another. Which one to answer first? Work? Or that online petition about the crisis in Sudan? Which one should I feel guiltier about?
As Selina quickly descends in to a kind of millennial madness, and we can’t help but feel for her as she wrestles with the same world we’ve built for ourselves, a generation contending with a never-ending deluge of stories and updates. When conducting outreach for the show Alix highlights the comment of one student: ‘we just live in a world where we have too much to listen to’. As I feel my phone quietly buzz away with updates throughout the performance, I can’t help but agree.
Alix Harris’ writing skill is very much on show here, as I’m never quite sure whether to laugh or cry, as the show is almost our very own black mirror, showing us all our own daily struggles with technology. It’s a performance that feels very close to home.
Presenting this as a one-woman show is wonderfully raw, as it perfectly captures the often loneliness of ‘social’ technologies, as well as our often desperate attempt to be the heroes of our own stories. How do we live up to the images and people we want to be?
2000 stories has some very strong poetic influences, most notably Maya Angelou, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Kate Tempest’s Brand New Ancients in relation to this show, it has that same sense of introverted curiosity, but the play also stands proudly with its own voice.
Shiquerra Robertson is gripping as Selina, and manages to hold the audience in a kind of captivating chaos throughout, bringing Jules Laville’s wonderful choreography to life. A remix of Missy Elliot’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’ is a particular highlight, and shows the skillful blending of big ideas and moments of madness that I think make 2000 stories so engaging.
There are some very clever details from set designer Chloe Benbow, in the form of some very solid looking books, stacked like dominoes that may fall at any time. In a world of e-mails and digital data this was a stark reminder of the weight and burden of the modern world.
Overall 2000 stories perfectly captures our lives in the present moment. It hits us with that often-overwhelming feeling of the world around us. From fake news to global crisis how can we be heard in the chaos? What is that voice worth? Will Michelle Obama really write the forward to my book? Perhaps there are some answers scattered somewhere in 2000 stories.