We all know that information overload is our new reality, and we’ve seen its effects on our ability to focus, to be present, and to gain a deeper-than-the-headline understanding of an idea or situation.
Sure, we have all the sources in the world to draw from, but is this actually helping us to better understand our world and how best to live in it? And what is this new reality doing to our ability to connect with others?
That central theme, of being more connected online but less connected IRL, drives Deluge, a new play by emerging local playwright Philip Kavanagh.
The piece is actually five plays performed at once, interweaving and overlapping each other. There's the youthful one-night stand with its after-effects. The lonely Bahai missionary who finds a convert after a tragic incident. The brick-throwing prophet. The transgender soldier who finds solace skyping with a journalist back home. Two gamers, a noob and a pro, teaming up to play at war.
It's hard to keep track of the action. You focus on the stories located closest to you, or those that resonate with you most, even though connecting with some of the characters wasn't easy, as plotlines were a bit far-fetched. You lose threads of one story as they disappear under the wave of another.
Deluge very effectively conveys the sense of overwhelm that can face us on a daily basis as we are bombarded with various lines of communication and distraction.
The play has been in development for three years, having started its life in the hallowed halls of the Flinders University Drama Centre. It is now the first production for new company, Tiny Bricks. The original team is still largely intact, and it's great to see such a young group put on work of this calibre.
The scenography was particularly impressive. The 'stage' is an above-ground foam pit, hemmed in with a ceiling of LED light tracks. The lights flicker to represent a change of scene; the passing of time and data.
The actors emerge from the sea of white latex bricks, remaining half-submerged. It's odd to experience stage acting from only the chest up, and it's never entirely clear why the sea of foam exists. Possibly it's meant to represent the dense murk of our over-stimulated environment.
That is the point though, really. This straight-jacketed, yet experimental performance is designed so that the meaning is in the eye of the beholder. And with the mixed audience seated on all sides of the stage, looking into a mash of connections, all those eyes could behold a great many things indeed.
It is interesting to see a theatre piece – a traditional channel for conveying ideas to an audience – used to engage in new and alternative communication channels. Even if it does so through a traditionally scripted format, albeit an unusual one. Deluge is a new experience in trad theatre, but it doesn't tip theatre on its head.
Good art, even if you don't "enjoy" certain aspects of it technically, should make you feel something, or think differently about something. Personally, I felt bewildered and overcome as I left this play. I thought about my device addictions and how wasteful they can be. I discussed the very topical ideas with my friends. And I keep thinking about the dialogue I connected with most. That makes Deluge a powerful work of art.