written and performed by Joana Geronimo
Directed by Wambui Hardcastle
at alphabetti theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne, 19th October 2022
This is a gently interactive and heart warming production, in world premiere, that looks at what is for many of us one of our most intimate relationships today, that with social media. Joana Geronimo wrote and presents this think through of social media’s impact upon her and by extension our own lives in an engaging and gently real way.
She puts forward the idea of social media being another space that we are in and how that threatens the physical spaces, the real lives, and our engagement with them that we have. Put simply, as she asks ‘can we be in two places at once?’. It is therefore a call to think about our presence in life, a call to life, mindfulness, and a call to awareness of how we may find joy in life, in simple things, regardless of being able to prove them or record them except in memory, and in our hearts. Though it is also important to recognise, as she does, the benefits of social media too, especially as we found during pandemic lockdown times.
She does this all by engaging with us interactively and helping us engage with each other, at its best this production almost becomes a conversation with her, and does become so with each other. The real life situation of a theatre where we may not engage with others so much opens into a place to get to know others. It was often delightful in that and broke a tension that can somehow be there. Joana Geronimo has a very real and warm engaging presence that helps this all happen. I sensed perhaps as this production is in early days that at times she is still finding her way with it, how certain segments are introduced perhaps she was finding her most comfortable way to be with them (yet not too comfortable, still real and open), and perhaps also in doing so with an audience. It occurs to me that the audience may almost be a problem as we all obviously have our own expertise in social media and in our presence in life, but it also occurs to me that at the same time the audience is her treasure, this is what she and we are seeking. I’m confident she was learning all the time as she presented this show and that she will find ways to bring it all close to how she and her audiences need performances to be, it is already excellent.
I felt engaged and safe with her and I left feeling she very much cares about this topic. I may also be being a bit over sensitive – I thoroughly enjoyed it all – I’m pretty much a scaredy cat (in a big way) when it comes to audience participation but I enjoyed all of this once I started to settle having nearly been late. I even got up when invited to dance on stage in the middle of it all, forgetting I was experiencing a bit of a wardrobe malfunction (potential nightmare) and yet able to be comfortable despite that and in the friendly atmosphere created. The interactivity of the show was well thought out and gently introduced and will gain with experience I am sure, it was and has huge potential to be beautiful. In a way it was a workshop on being real and a chance to practise this a bit or get in touch with it, a reintroduction or reminder of presence.
The show unfolds as an account of Joana’s own relationship to social media and experiences of being without it. She’s inviting us to think about how we manage ourselves within this alternative world it is so easy to while hours away in. It has certainly made me think, she asks us to experiment with leaving the social media alone and I shall do so more deliberately again. She has also left me thinking about issues of eye contact in sometimes casual situations and how powerful its impact can be then. I’m trained as a counsellor and thought I knew, but she has me thinking now more broadly and especially given an invisible eye issue I have in a lazy eye that biases my eye contact sometimes. It may not just be as she said it, but she’s invited me to think about it and experiment.
The production is supported by projections of stills and video from social media. It is simply staged and lit, though nicely done – there is a set up to a game that is shared and an audience member invited to play in a well designed way. It all helps to break into just speaking to each other as people — something which I greatly enjoyed when invited to speak with my neighbours.
In some ways I feel I may be a target audience as a social media user, in others as I remember so much time spent before it and given my training she may be preaching to the converted in me — and yet I still wholly enjoyed this. I could wonder if a great audience would be young people maturing through initial social media use, but I also think a very wide ranging audience now would appreciate this and any humans thinking about presence in our technological times.
To it all is a gentle awareness and sharing of Joana’s background in Angola which seemed to speak of some of her sense and also offered the gift of Angolan music and dance that we all got to share when we were invited to dance with her at the end, when I felt something had happened to this audience group that had participated and started to get to know each other. I feel it is a Highly Recommended Show (experience) that is well on course to become a Must See Show as she and it develop in performance, though there may be many social media users out there that might get a lot from this gentle, playful, warm and non-judgemental exploration for whom it may already be a Must See. A Thoroughly good experience I am grateful for.
The shows come with a screening of a short film that is relevant to its themes:
The Man Without a Head/L’Homme sans Tete from Juan Solnas (18 – 22nd Oct)
My Rhythm from Saya Rose Naruse (25th-29th Oct)
Inner Gods from gateway Studios (1st-5th Nov).
Credits for the show
Written and Performed by Joana Geronimo
Directed by Wambui Hardcastle
Stage Management by Chris Foley
Sound and Video Design by Nick Tyler
Lighting Design by Chris Foley
Rehearsal Photography and Videography by Benjamin Michael Smith
Production Photography by Benjamin Michael Smith
Produced by Ellis McGowan
Marketing Coordination by Scott Jeffrey
Community Engagement Coordination by Audrey Cook
Production Support from Ali Pritchard