‘I Wish I Was Lonely’: A New Take on Technology

I Wish I Was Lonely

Chris Thorpe and Hannah Jane Walker

 

Tonight is the Australian debut of an intriguing production from the minds of performance poet Hannah Jane Walker and theatre maker Chris Thorpe.

‘I Wish I Was Lonely’ is a performance all about communication or lack thereof in the era of the smartphone. The audience are asked to do the opposite of what’s usually expected at a theatrical performance. They’ll be told to keep their phones on, and encouraged to answer any calls or messages.

OUTinPerth spoke to Hannah Jane Walker and Chris Thorpe ahead of their opening performance at the State Theatre Centre this evening.

“We always try to find something that isn’t just about us, it’s a universal thing that people are preoccupied with. You only have to get on a bus just to see how much- like you’re recording this on your phone. [Laughs] We all have them and we’re all really obsessed with them.” Walker said.

According to Thorpe, the gained inspiration for the production from real life communication habits.

“We got irritated by aspects of each others’ behaviour when we use our mobiles. Quite often I text when I’m actually talking to people, I’m doing two at the same time. Hannah doesn’t make it clear on her outgoing voicemail message that she never actually checks her voicemail messages.” Thorpe said.

“It’s not about the negative social behaviours around our phones, not completely about that because there are incredibly positive things they bring to our lives but I think, quite similar to a lot of our other stuff, it’s asking, when a new thing happens, as in we suddenly get access over let’s say twenty years to all this expanding technology, what are the problems caused by the fact that our social evolution, the way that we communicate on a daily basis, changes much more slowly. So there’s a lag between what we’re capable of doing, and being able to do it, positively in a way that enhances our lives.”

Walker said the show will examine how the swift development of technology has changed the way we relate to each other in a remarkably short period of time.

“What we kept asking ourselves in whether technology has basically evolved faster than our ability to use it wisely, and it probably has because it’s evolved so quickly that it’s just suddenly there, and people are just using it however it happens, and some of that is brilliant because it brings people closer together, but also some of it is really destructive to just sitting at a table and having a conversation with someone.”

Using poetry and discussion, the audience will assist in the creation of the show, meaning that every performance is a unique experience. However, Walker insisted that shier members of the audience needn’t fear participation.

“What we try to be careful to do is although it’s a participatory show- I think I have a greater sensitivity to it than Chris does but I really hate participatory stuff because I always feel like I’m going to be exploited or made to do something which could be embarrassing or break the show or something. So It is participatory but it’s participatory in the way that people can basically choose how much they choose to engage with it. Because it’s our job to make the show, it’s not their job.”

While Walker and Thorpe have gathered a lot of wisdom about smartphone etiquette since opening the show in 2013, they aim to open a dialogue rather than give plain instructions.

“We’re not attempting to teach the audience the secret of doing this in a positive manner and we’re certainly not encouraging people to go and throw their phones in the river after the show. It’s just trying to create that little five minute space maybe when people are out in the world, where they think ‘Is there a different way to be doing this?'” Thorpe said.

‘I Wish I Was Lonely’ is at the State Theatre Centre as part of the Perth International Arts Festival from February 20th-28th. More information available here.

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