The Nottingham New Theatre’s ‘2021’ is based on the modern dystopian genre but with a unique twist. Instead of feeling like it is set in a distant future, the topics tackled throughout the play feel very relevant and relatable to today’s technology-driven society.
The play follows the main character Alex Bradbury (played by Sunenna Sohal) who is a YouTube sensation. She initiates an investigation into the release of the new ‘green light’ feature by fictional technology giants TJE. The ‘green light’ appears on your phone every time that your camera is being used, allowing you to know if your camera is watching you without your consent.
Her character regularly shares her in-depth research into TJE with her subscribers on her YouTube channel, and she ends up uncovering a great conspiracy. However, by exposing these secrets online publicly, she risks putting her own safety (and even her life) in grave danger.
Sunenna completely embodies her role, and with the play being premiered online on the YouTube platform, watching her acting on your screen truly feels as if you are watching a real-life YouTuber making videos. Her chime of the classic YouTube intro – “Hey guys, welcome back to my channel” – is all too familiar, and entirely believable.
The most impressive moment of this is when Alex is live-streaming
The fact that the play regularly shows clips of the YouTube website, complete with a realistic recommended videos section and even a fabricated comment section, only adds to this. The most impressive moment of this is when Alex is live-streaming, and the ‘live chat’ function of YouTube can be seen on the right-hand side of the screen, flooded with a continuous stream of comments as the scene of the play progresses.
As a viewer of the play, these additional editing elements actually make you feel as if you are using the YouTube platform, watching Alex’s videos as her investigation into the conspiracy progresses. A stand-out line of the play, and one that is repeated multiple times, is “You guys are my witnesses”. As you watch her safety become gradually more and more threatened, you truly feel as if you are a real-life witness to the conspiracy that are unravelling.
Despite ‘2021’ being the last play that NNT will release on online platforms, I think that this online setting ultimately works perfectly in its favour. Despite it being slightly ironic, watching the play online only adds to the themes which are discussed throughout, as well as heightening the impact of the message and emphasising the potentially realistic nature of the plot-line.
They play succeeds in all of its aims – it highlights the risks and dangers of the online world, the secret communications that take place between large corporations and governments, and the suppression of the human right of freedom of speech – all whilst unnerving the audience as they come to the realisation that they are living in a society where your phone camera really could be watching you at all times.
You can watch ‘2021’ on YouTube here.
Featured image courtesy of Nottingham New Theatre. No changes made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of @2021.nnt via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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