Watching carefully

16 April 2019

The one where Lucy Thompson reviews ARE YOU STILL WATCHING

TV culture: the way we watch, and why we watch: who with, when, and what. ARE YOU STILL WATCHING.

In its own (borrowed) words, this chaotic play is a big ball of wibbly-wobbly stuff. ARE YOU STILL WATCHING is haphazard – references are thrown all over the place – and certainly needs tighter structuring. But the sketches are mostly energetic, the props outlandish, and the cast invested in their subject.

In the spirit of this being about TV, I’ve put some highlights and thoughts in a format recognisable to anyone who’s ever had access to a television.

  • The One Where to ‘get’ this play, you need to have watched a lot of TV.
  • The One With a really good Jeremy Clarkson impression.
  • The One Where Alyssa Edwards tries to engage the (not very responsive) audience.
  • The One With Jon Snow rock-star dancing and, like a car crash, you can’t look away.
  • The One Where audience interaction doesn’t work that well, because the play is about TV, so it’s not medium-accurate to be interacting with viewers.
  • The One With a lot of turnips. And turnips given to the audience. And turnips taken back again and fed to a ‘horse’. Not sure why – it felt like an overextended bit without any direct relevance to TV.
  • The One With jarring jumps between scenes/characters which are supposed to mimic channel-hopping, but it doesn’t work because we (the audience) can’t actually choose what we’re seeing.
  • The One Where the cast literally applied onions to their eyes. A bizarre segway, which didn’t feel very well tied-in to the main idea, but I applaud them.
  • The One With a nostalgic description of an early-2000s living room, which captured the family experience of watching TV with real warmth.
  • The One Where the tension between topic (watching television) and viewer (person watching theatre) doesn’t really work because it can’t make people self-conscious of their own TV habits or attitudes toward TV.

The Arden School have set themselves a difficult challenge; theatre is inherently not the best art form for exploring television. It could have been slicker, and it could definitely have been funnier. But – 

  • The One Where NSDF is the ideal place to get this kind of feedback and make changes.

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Photo credit: Beatrice Debney