Google Me is the new offering from 2018 Fringe debut comedian Eleanor Colville. The flyer copy promises a show written by an algorithm. I’m not sure if I was the naïve one to take this at its word but I did genuinely think an algorithm would at least inform the show or perhaps some basic computer program would influence which elements made it into a show on any given day. It seems not, and instead was a convenient linking device to allow Colville to discuss her tortured millennial existence on the Internet, in a way that was neither interesting nor novel.
If you think you’ll be getting some grand insight, or a clever concept for a new Fringe show, you will also be sadly disappointed.
To begin with the positive, Colville is highly likeable. She has an infectious energy that you can see play out when she appeals for audience participation. People want to help her because she seems so genuine. She is certainly a capable character actress with vocal and physical skills. However, I think this show is a let down for her.
A punter would want one of two things from this show; either a voyeuristic look into someone’s private life – you know we all love it, queue every single reality show ever – where Colville would literally sell her internet history for seats filled. Or an informative, yet comical, look at algorithms, privacy, growing up on the Internet. The latter would be less original, but with an actual informative bent on algorithms and the inner-workings of computers it would perhaps balance out. However what is abundantly clear is that Colville has no more than layman’s understanding of how any of it works and the whole ‘algorithm’ sell is a gimmick, and a poorly research one at that.
So, let us put aside the algorithm and focus on the character-comedy. We began with Pat Riarchy (sigh), a Ted Talk giving, mansplaining, manspreading, sexist douche bag. Colville actually references virtue signaling in online echo chambers, certainly implying it to be a negative phenomenon, but I can’t see what else the purpose of this character was other than her own virtue signaling. It certainly wasn’t any spectacular, or even mediocre insight, into feminism. It is impressing in its delivery by Colville, who as mentioned brings plenty of energy to the impression, but it isn’t enough to override the lazy writing.
Her other characters seem equally banal in the observations they seek to illustrate. We have Pat’s wife, Australian-born Sharon, who is into vlogging and seems to serve no purpose other than to allow Colville to show a weird video of her as a pre-teen careening around a field speaking in an Australian accent. There is an actual ghost who – guess what – represents ghosting people. I thought it a better vocal impersonation of the Fergie, Duchess of York than a ghost but that’s beside the point. We have section dedicated to a nostalgic dive into Facebook status of the late-2000s teens and MSN nicknames. If you are also mid-twenties you’ll enjoy a ping of nostalgia but no more. It feels like Colville was on a sofa one day showing embarrassing decade old social media content to her friends and thought ‘there could be a Fringe show in this.’ There could, but not this one.
Finally we end with the big polemic crescendo. Colville decides to take back control from the bot and encourages us to do the same. It’s an on-trend message but lacks any actual weight. Why? How?... we are left asking. It seems childish in its simplicity, and doesn’t make up for it by being funny.
I have faith in Colville as a performer, but this show I’m afraid is a miss and a miss made even worse by the fairly misleading flyer promises. If you think you’ll be getting some grand insight, or a clever concept for a new Fringe show, you will also be sadly disappointed.