Of the many offerings of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the ones that most caught my eye were actually taking place as a part of the (free) Forest Fringe Festival, a bit further away from the center of the action in Leith. It seemed to be very carefully curated, not so much a mixed bag as a bouquet of cultivated exotics. My first pick, the excellent Purge, well rewarded my efforts to time my arrival to Edinburgh so as to be able to see it. My second choice was “I Wish I Was Lonely,” which, like “Purge,” had technology at the heart of its being. But rather than being a personal journey, “I Wish I Was Lonely” offered to take us on a group journey exploring our relationship with … cellphones.
I was expecting we might go for a walk, or that the performers would be calling us, but instead we were calling each other, sending texts to each other’s phones, and listening in horrored fascination as the people who got calls during the show were forced to answer them during the show. And then, at last, we were forced to SEPARATE ourselves from our phone … the stress! … while the performers talked about what it meant to be away from the phone (and we all shared what it meant to US). And we played a game of what we in the US call “telephone,” repeating to our neighbors the lines of a poem as they came around the circle to us.
While we sat, jumbled, in this room together, the performers talked to us about their relationship with phones (each of them had a very different approach) as well as their personal relationship. I was, however, not able to focus very well because of the glaring presence of the phone in my hand. Really, I envied not just the people who hadn’t brought their phones, but the man who’d so firmly decided that he was not going to have one. This connectivity, is it a pipeway to the world or a ball and chain? By the end of the piece, I began to feel the phones, and the expectation of constant connectivity, are a hindrance to our existence rather than an enabler. Just look at people walking down the sidewalk in London: it seems have of them are staring at their palms no matter what the weather is. And for all of my tweets about how I’d like to have someone come into the room and bring me some tea, I was left to suffer without. Ah well: if it hadn’t been for the hungover no-shows, I wouldn’t have even made it in.
Text I sent to my phone buddy: “The only time I will call you is if … you will bring me tea and it’s today.”
Response (after the show was well over): “The tea is in the oven but if you’re not home soon it’ll be in the dog.”
This show felt like it didn’t quite get to where it could have gone, but it prompted some interesting thoughts about how tied we are to our tech and whether or not it’s really helping us connect – or separate. I can’t help but feel sad watching my husband sit in the living room, on his phone, seemingly hour after hour with nothing to say to me while he sits there and reads Facebook and plays games. This is a technology that can just as easily enforce loneliness or help end it, at the same time. Me, I’m going to remember to turn the damn thing off on a nice day and just walk down the street, looking at the flowers or the sky.
(This review is for the final performance that took place on Sunday, August 25th, 2013.)