Hannah Jane Walker and Chris Thorpe’s new immersive spoken word piece concerns the issue of communication technology and its impact upon how we behave and interact in the twenty-first century.
In particular, the show centres on the ways in which the mobile phones and instant internet access have increased the frequency and decreased the intensity of our collective conversation. Through an informal and engaging fusion of poetry, performance and interactive theatre, Walker and Thorpe encourage the audience to question their passive acceptance of these radical shifts.
The general focus is on how mobiles have obliterated the private sphere, so that we no longer know how to be alone or how to miss people. I felt a little bit unconvinced about the importance of some of the claims made in relation to this point: for example, that you can’t miss someone who’s in your pocket, or that something isn’t real unless you miss it. It’s obviously interesting to invert paranoia about absence and loneliness, and I think felicitous – but at the same time, a bit inward-looking, and with limited scope.
I was more convinced of the pertinence of a poem that focussed on the ways in which social media has replaced direct action within the political sphere, so that sharing, liking etc. have come to serve as self-gratifying and ineffectual substitutes for protest: “action in inaction”. This was a strong, provocative point, well expressed – I just wish that this political dimension had been made more of.
Objections aside – I Wish I Was Lonely is an effective piece. Some people will be allergic to the prominence of spoken word, tendency to preach, participatory expectations, and conversational style. But if you can overcome these prejudices – this is a healthy, thought-provoking and innovative work.