The #MeToo movement is losing momentum, but its work is not done. Stories of abuse and coercion on social media, which breeds its own form of celebrity, are seemingly everywhere. The Collab is one such story, exploring the power dynamic between online celebrities, fans and the abuse and manipulation that facilitates.
The show embodies the relevance of the #MeToo movement
Ella (played by Louise Lord) is an up-and-coming content creator who gets the chance to collaborate with well-known influencer and vocal feminist Max Jessop (played by Andre Frey). Max and his colleague Brett (Clark Alexander) are recreating paintings which Max believes highlight the problematic power dynamic between men and women, in this case The Luncheon on the Grass by Manet, which depicts a nude woman and two fully clothed men. Ella embraces the opportunity to claim her body, but disagrees with Max on the nature of the power dynamic - Ella doesn't see anything wrong with it, but Max feels otherwise. This leads to a heated encounter and sows the seeds of their toxic romantic relationship going forward.
Over the course of this relationship, Max becomes distant, dismissive, loses his temper and begins to reveal his true character. He turns out to be a serial emotional and sexual abuser and Ella's friend Kat (played by Maria Eastwood Krah) tries to warn Ella after her own encounter with him, but Ella refuses to accept the truth. Things escalate and the play builds to a heart-pounding crescendo.
The show embodies the relevance of the #MeToo movement and the complexities of consent in a nuanced way. The acting is great across the board, with the actors successfully hitting it home as a vessel for the message of the piece. It was nice to see Kat come around on Brett, who turned out to be the inverse of Max - starting out as the apparent creep Max turned out to be all along, when in reality Brett has a heart of gold.
Deftly written by Lauren Morley with stellar directing by Rachael Bellis, the show features an effective use of a projector which felt appropriate, being a tool that's real within the world of the story. The Collab is an arresting show and in the aftermath of #MeToo, this is a story that will resonate.