Originally published on Reviews Hub
It has never been easier to be connected. Want to chat with your best friend in New York? You can in seconds just using Skype. A pithy 140 character statement will earn you plenty of new followers on Twitter. A bit of Netflix and chill time is yours via a few right swipes on Tinder. A picture of a cat? Hello, Facebook. Yet, as the world becomes more connected, there is an argument that the new Millennials have never seemed so lost. OpenWorks Theatre’s And Now: The World! is a hyper-kinetic trawl through the constant barrage of pings and notifications that make up the modern Western world, one where we never shut off, never stop making contact and yet have rarely felt so lonely.
Jennifer Jackson’s girl lives her life without needing to leave her efficient white MacBook-esque bedroom; conducting business by selling fake Viagra tablets online, slowly breaking her heart with messages from her unrequited love sleeping her way around a gap year in Thailand and fielding calls from her Mum who is suffering from her own personal demons. Jackson rarely stops moving; springing, hanging and cartwheeling from one message to another, the physical embodiment of a mind not prepared to switch off. She is unable to deal with stress – she vomits when she hears stories about her desire’s sexual exploits – and so stays constantly on the move, to stop having to think, to stop having to feel. As the hour progresses, we see a young girl looking for something else but potentially already too trapped in the online state to find a world beyond it.
There have been plenty of one-woman plays in recent times that have looked at the effect of the modern world on a woman’s psyche; Fleabag delved into a world where pornography has changed the way people view sex and intimacy, while Grounded considered family and mental well-being in a world where responsibility for lives has become little more than a game people play in drone warfare. #ANTW!, originally written in German by Sibylle Berg, now given a breathless word-explosion translation by Ben Knight, is tougher to get a handle on in first viewing. Director Abigail Graham has staged it in constant blurring motion and subjects us to the same information overload as that provided by the internet. It’s sometimes baffling, occasionally exhilarating and very often frustrating. Just like its subject, though, you find yourself sucked into its vortex and an hour passes by in the blink of an eye. You come out both enriched and a little empty of nourishment.
The work is helped along by the hard-working performance of Jackson who, in her teddy bear onesie and thick rimmed glasses, initially comes across as ‘ironically’ hip before the stripping away of the onesie sees a stripping away of the facade and a reveal of the more anguished girl underneath. Graham’s production also includes the best-curated soundtrack I have heard on a stage this year from Nick Powell, a mix of tracks that will rush you to memories of forgotten nights at the Milk Thistle and back again.