Guest reviewer: Ellen Casey
Feed follows the heavily intertwined stories of a Palestinian woman; her social justice warrior, journalist partner; an obsessed hacker troll; and a YouTube makeup guru looking for a cause. It sounds like an unlikely cast of characters, but they end up whirling tightly around each other, following the ability of the internet and social media to elevate small ripples of action to dizzying heights of absurdity.
Feed leans into this absurdity heavily; this is a performance laden with dark humour and tight directorial choices. Feed has an important, interesting message, but it is delivered by actors in goose masks, a physical representation of catfishing involving a schoolgirl outfit, and farcical targeted ads acted out behind lightboxes.
The real strength of Feed is that the insanity has a limit and a purpose; one of my favourite techniques used was simple: a character would say something reasonable and sedate, and some giant hand somewhere would hit the rewind. With pretty impressive reflexes, the actor involved would reverse their actions, and next go around, things wouldn’t be quite so reasonable – and definitely not sedate. This might repeat a few times until the screw was tightened enough that every action was brimming with the highest amount of aggression and aggrandizement possible, mimicking the forest fire that can begin in cyberspace from the tiniest lit match. These kinds of clever visual metaphors are rife throughout Feed (there’s a couple of great, and disgusting, foie gras ones) and, along with some of the strangeness and gore, are fairly reminiscent of Black Mirror. The difference is perhaps one of impact – the tightly delivered gut punch of Feed’s ending personally felt like it left more of a lasting impression.
Feed is an incredibly cohesive production, despite it being nuts. The stage itself is wonderful: a spinning two-part grey monolith that can be climbed on and through, popped open at a moment’s notice to act as a prop wardrobe or an escape hatch. It’s excellent stagecraft that works collaboratively with the actors and elevates the production massively.
So what is Feed to me after all the geese and chainsaws? It’s the low-level feedback from electronic devices that has entered our daily lives – cleverly replicated by sound design and stitched into the play at opportune moments – and it describes the way that we interact with the social media in our daily life. We feed off the attention, the likes, the echo chamber of the internet that amplifies issues; and then feeds it back to us tenfold.
My verdict? A masterclass in tightly controlled madness; a story worth telling, and worth watching.
Feed ran at the VAULT Festival until 10 March 2019.