Theatre review: Western Society
Gob Squad explore the contemporary obsession with capturing experiences for the internet
Although Gob Squad's theatrical tricks are familiar from earlier works – replacing actors with audience members, projecting the live action onto screens – Western Society uses these tropes to make a scathing indictment of the contemporary obsession with capturing experiences for the internet.
Basing the show on a brief YouTube clip, which shows a group of people at an ordinary party, the company slowly build towards a dark climax which suggests that Western civilisation has become the empty-headed guest who refuses to realise that the party is over.
Gob Squad are not interested in telling a story: their attempt to recreate the original video becomes an excuse for a series of episodes that highlight vacuity. The cast demand answers from each other on the most absurd issues, while audience members are conscripted to play the parts of the guests who wander around in the video. The lack of meaningful communication, either between the guests or the cast is horrifying, hinting at a bleak alienation from each other and basic critical thinking.
Filtering the live action through the projections adds an intangibility to the cast's movements and words: they become like ghosts, wandering through each other's lives but failing to make a connection. In place of a traditional narrative, Western Society is a condemnation of the impact of mobile phones, the internet and any mediated experience – television and film included – that disguises its moral purpose behind a facade of decadent fun and humour.