by Euan Vincent
In 2002, Suzan-Lori Parks set herself the task of writing a play a day for 365 days. Parks
would eventually release the performing rights for $1 per play, sparking a continent-wide theatre festival that took Parks’ work, and theatre, to a host of new audiences and venues. Theatre Uncut follow a similar ethos.
Each year, the company commissions new works from leading and emerging playwrights to be released rights-free, able to be performed throughout the world. A map of these Theatrical Mass Events chronicles the breadth of the discussion created so far. In 2020, it’s Scottish playwright, Kieran Hurley’s turn to spark the debate when he explores free speech and the nature of online debate in Bubble.
Set entirely on Facebook and performed online, Bubble follows the online reaction when
male university professor William Barrett calls one of his young female students a slut.
Politics student Connor posts a reaction video on Facebook, and the Feminist Society quickly take up the cause. When Preston – a slightly isolated and confused student – attempts to defend Barrett, he faces stiff backlash from the Feminist Society. Groups and battle lines begin to form.
Hurley uses these groups to forensically pick apart the debate on all sides. Does it matter,
for instance, that the victim of the insult doesn’t care one bit? When safe spaces for women are formed, should feminist men also be allowed to join? And why is it that when a feminist society member states that all men should be killed, this can to be fobbed off as a joke, but Professor Barratt’s comments cannot?
Hypocrisies begin to emerge ever more steadily as the debate hardens on all side, and the production illustrates how quickly nuance can disappear in online debate. The battle that is finally fought bares no equivalence to the initial confrontation and shows how dangerously this can spin back into real life consequences.
Co-Directors Hannah Price and Emma Callander marshal an outstanding cast to deliver the piece, which covers far more topics than one review could handle. Happily, the content is available for free on YouTube, so get out there and let the debate commence!
Bubble is available online until 23 April here.
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