Follow/Unfollow explores internet fame and the rise of the vlogger. Broadway Baby investigates.
A subculture has arisen of bloggers on YouTube who have thousands, even millions of devoted fans from talking to the camera in their bedroom. Some video makers are amazingly creative – and artistically this is a platform people need to take notice of - but at the other end of the scale is a creative vacuum exploiting fans to make money.
Tell us about your show
Follow/Unfollow is a satire about Internet vloggers, fame and integrity. It’s my first play here as a new writer. I am part of a writer’s group at Liverpool’s Lantern Theatre and I’m fascinated by young audiences that now primarily find their entertainment on phones and tablets. A subculture has arisen of bloggers on YouTube who have thousands, even millions of devoted fans from talking to the camera in their bedroom. Some video makers are amazingly creative – and artistically this is a platform people need to take notice of - but at the other end of the scale is a creative vacuum exploiting fans to make money. The play is a story about the people in this world: the vlogger, the manager and the fan – who isn’t happy.
Why did you decide to take your show to Space UK this year?
theSpace hosts such a variety of shows across different genres and is supportive of new writing so I couldn’t ask for a more innovative and diverse place for my first Edinburgh play. We hope that the mix of people who come to see shows at theSpace feel that we are touching accurately on social media issues if they are familiar with the area – or if not, that they will learn something about the growing subculture of YouTubers and fan obsession.
What makes your show unique amongst the thousands of others at the festival?
Our play is modern and is a multimedia experience. You can follow the main character Ryan @ryanomarten now on Twitter. See his pointless videos on YouTube and get to know the area we are highlighting if it’s unfamiliar. Mainstream media is only just beginning to pay attention to YouTubers and our story on the rise and fall of these vloggers hasn’t been told before. We mix the live onstage narrative with a Greek chorus of internet commentators because now there is no separation between ‘real life’ and the online world.
How did you create your show?
Research on Twitter, YouTube and so on was key. Much of the top trends are about the likes of One Direction and Justin Bieber – social media is where the new Beatlemania is happening. But now, young fans don’t have to leave their house to go to a concert, they can actually interact with their idols on their phones. And these idols are YouTube stars. We wanted to tell a story about what can be a frightening world not just because of cyberbullying but because this is an area where obsession can grow and fans can be exploited through advertising.
Can you tell us a bit about your company’s background?
I am a new Northern writer whose had a couple of short pieces on at the Lantern Theatre in Liverpool. Director Pete Mitchelson runs the Shiny New Theatre Festival which we feature in at the end of July in its fourth year of operation. His show Jollyboat won the Musical Comedy Award in 2011. Also part of the team is talented set designer Emily Adamson who’s working at the English National Opera at the London Coliseum. Lead actor Jay Podmore runs a video production company which has helped us with the multimedia elements and completing the cast we have rising stars Leanne Martin from Glasgow (also starring in Broken Biscuits at the Festival) and Lily Shepherd from Liverpool.
If your show does well in Edinburgh, what do you want to do with it next?
Over the summer we are at fringe festivals in Manchester, Buxton and Liverpool as well as Edinburgh. We’d really like to do a full tour next year – possibly at rural locations as it would be a great challenge to do quite a technical show in unconventional locations.
Show Name: Follow/Unfollow
Production Company: Shiny New Theatre
Writer: Andrew Rimmer
Venue: theSpace @ Surgeons Hall: Theatre 2
Dates: 24th-29th August 2015
Twitter Handle: @unfollowplay