Error 404

“Instagram is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends and family.”

This production is a refreshingly imaginative exploration of a complex and at times tragic issue.

“Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.” That’s how just two online social media websites describe themselves. It sounds totally harmless, but what happens when the medium and the people who use it are abused and it all turns sour?

The Point Youth Theatre successfully uses a wide range of devices for developing their critical examination of this increasingly distressing issue. Live guitar music, filmed sequences, stills, a hand-held on-stage video camera, audience interaction and storytelling all feature in this fast-moving fun show with a serious message. If it sounds as though they have just thrown every technique into the melting-pot be assured that they know how to use each device purposefully and to its full measure.

This piece is well researched. To assess the effects of the internet on their own lives the youngsters went for a month without using it, which must have been difficult for a generation that has never known a time when it didn’t exist. As the cast points out, “They have grown up with two identities: their online persona, and offline existence; a legitimised split personality.” In a cleverly crafted scene they introduce themselves individually on stage then cut to the screen where we enter a house to find the same person opening the front door for us. Once inside we go to the bedroom to learn a secret never before told, and that all young people’s bedrooms are horribly untidy places. It’s one example among many of the divergent thought that has gone into constructing this piece, of which Katie Mitchell would be proud.

The cast continues to reveal truths and share real-life stories. Phone conversations and texts become the medium, the latter again displayed on the screen. It all goes well until Tyler enters a line that he thinks is funny but the recipient finds offensive. Friends are drawn into the conflict, relationships are strained and the question posed of how an alleged joke can be funny when it’s abusive. The effects of such behaviour on real individuals overwhelmed by a world of toxic chatter is vividly shown in images of young people who took the ultimate step of logging off from life.

This production is a refreshingly imaginative exploration of a complex and at times tragic issue. It has considerable merit as a piece of theatre, but it could also be a powerful educational tool deployed in a wider context of school and youth groups where young people would immediately identify with the cast and the contemporary format and be stimulated to discuss the questions it raises. It would need some tweaking, but even as it stands this work is a resounding and timely success.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Delving into the Internet's dark corners and playful spaces, a cast of young adults reveal truths and share stories, questioning our fashionable yet potentially harmful online lives. This is Error 404: Please DO NOT switch off your mobile. Using live music, audience interaction and powerful storytelling, Error 404 is inspired by wider issues in the media and the cast's real experiences - including their challenge to last a whole month Internet free! With these issues under the spotlight, Internet users both on and off stage will be forced to confront their relationship with the web.

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