Most of you are probably reading this review on a portable device right now. When was the last time that you stood up and looked around? Or the last time that you left home without your phone? Written and performed by Richard Saudek in collaboration with Crowded Outlet, beep boop brings questions like these to the fore in an irreverent pastiche of our increasing dependence upon those shiny blue screens – and it’s a lovely bit of clowning theatre too.
Lightning-fast movements and elastic facial expressions prove Saudek to be a master of his craft
Bedecked in grey as our nameless protagonist, Saudek squelches onto stage with the help of some impeccably-timed sound effects, evolving in front our eyes from primeval pond life to the homo sapiens that we know and love – before, of course, the phone bings. In one deft movement, all is transformed: a hunched posture, glazed eyes and ever-scrolling thumb make for a spot-on impression of commuters, teenagers and other like-minded individuals the world over. Lightning-fast movements and elastic facial expressions prove Saudek to be a master of his craft: drawing from the comic beats of silent-era movies and fusing this with the ever-so modern urge to always be ‘online’, I am sure you can imagine the potential for some embarrassingly relatable laughs that ripple through the audience.
Going beyond the undoubtedly brilliant physical talent is where beep boop begins to struggle a little – there are almost too many ideas to be contained in one hour-long show and, despite remaining mostly within the four imagined walls of one kitchen, it is occasionally hard to follow exactly what is going on. This means that some exciting concepts, such as being sucked into one’s laptop screen or the perils of looking for love online, are introduced but not explored to their full potential. A piece of clowning theatre doesn’t need an overarching narrative to be enjoyable, but given the zeitgeist of the subject matter it somehow feels like a trick was missed here.
beep boop is undeniably a critique of our modern obsession with technology, but first and foremost it is a collection of ‘what ifs?’ explored with entertaingly eccentric aplomb. Perhaps I am missing the point, and each of these disjointed forays into the foibles of modern tech are in themselves a commentary on how (and I may be speaking only for myself here) it is impossible to progress in one single direction when being pulled multiple ways by various mobile devices. However, even this in itself feels like a point that didn’t quite come across consistently, for which I admit I am a little disappointed.