Review: Like Me (Mongrel Mouth)

Venue: Merchants House (Sydney NSW), Jun 18 – Jul 11, 2015
Playwrights: Angela Blake, Charles Upton, Duncan Maurice, Moreblessing Maturure, Sharon Zeeman
Director: Duncan Maurice
Cast: Angela Blake, Adam Connelly, Ali Crew, Eli King, Moreblessing Maturure, Latisha Owens, Charles Upton, Ben Scales, Sharon Zeeman
Images by Chris Evans

Theatre review
Social media is probably the truest sign of our times, which means that our awareness of its manifold implications is not yet fully formed. We are overwhelmed by its swift evolutions and embroiled in its persistent intrusions, riding its waves of euphoria without a thorough understanding of what it all means, and more pressingly, its impact upon modern and future lives. Like Me delves into the technological manifestations of our narcissism to explore the worst aspects of our self-obsession, in a surreal language that articulates fluently our emotions and incoherent thoughts about this new slice and era of human history. The show is scathing and critical of selfie culture, finding ways to question its pervasive consumption, and exploring its dangers and famous fatalities. Without ever naming names, it discusses platforms and personalities that fuel the compulsive need for popularity, egomania and greed, thereby creating an updated artistic expression to the way we juxtapose the now classic relationship between capitalism and love.

Duncan Maurice’s direction is interested in the grotesque and morbid, yet a sickening cuteness is omnipresent. His work brings to the fore, a conflation of our deceptive and hypocritical style of contemporary communications, à la Jekyll and Hyde, that presents a very public face that betrays the truth behind our computerised selves. 9 characters, sensationally dressed by Alex PF Jackson to look like Teletubbies at a Comme des Garçons fashion show, frantically and maniacally scamper around us, feeding an absurd need for affirmation, slaves to a non-existing, imagined higher calling that demands their energy and allegiance.

Beautifully and innovatively created by set designers Gemma O’Nions and Louie Diamontaye, and lighting designer Christopher Page, the place is a mad house with players that are intimidating and intrusive, but we do not leave. It is pleasurable and seductive, and we comply. The cast is extraordinarily cohesive with its style, dialect and presence. They are one organism that pulses the same, even though individual personalities are brilliantly cultivated. Latisha Owens is frighteningly bold as Poppy, an ultra vivacious self-styled sex bomb of the internet whose torturous desperation dictates the tone of proceedings. Moreblessing Maturure portrays an adorable innocent Sarah-Jay , pure of spirit but nonetheless entangled and sadly corrupted. The performers are all wide eyed and entranced, intoxicated by tech, but their souls tell a different story, which we hear quite subconsciously in the thrilling soundscapes and music of David Herrero.

Scenes in Like Me can at times be repetitive, and its cataclysmic aura can become predictable, but its resonances catch you by surprise, and they hit home. The work offers a solution to the problems it rants about, but it feels futile. The pessimism we encounter, not only in the show, is overwhelming, but it is truthful. There is no easy answer to our predicament, but what the production does achieve is to put in perspective what our instincts know to be wrong in our culture today. It is complicated and complex, and this is no watered down interpretation of issues. How we progress beyond this point in time is anybody’s guess, but for now, there is no better snapshot on offer, of our online beings, warts and hashtags and all.