Creator: Tempest Theatre Co
Writer: Emma Maguire
An innovative and thought-provoking combination, Your Body is a Wasteland explores chronic illness using the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. With a new fragment of multimedia released each day of its run, this online experience from Tempest Theatre Co is an intriguing exploration into the possibility of creating drip-fed theatrical experiences through an online platform.
On the webpage, the audience is given two choices: to take the Long Road where they click through the story so far, or the Short Road where they view the multimedia extracts in a list ordered by when each was released. The content is the same, but the Long Road is arguably more visually pleasing. It puts us in the frame of a choose-your-own-adventure. However, as the viewer largely clicks through in the one place available to do so, there is disappointingly limited choice involved.
Through a range of short audio clips, videos, images, and text, we learn about the existence of the Wanderer (Emma Maguire). They are making their way through the Wasteland searching for the Seer. We might imagine the Seer a bit like a healer: part doctor, and part saint, an elusive person who may hold the answers and provide a safe haven.
Hot on the Wanderer’s heels, and suspicious of the Seer, is Tom, regularly communicating with Nina, another person who has been roaming the wild, post-apocalyptic landscape. In contrast to the couple, the Wanderer (Maguire) stays away from others. They tell us that being part of a ‘crew’ has never been their thing, reflecting the effects of trauma. However, they do seem encouraged that someone might be listening to their recordings. Regardless of their obstinate approach to their own isolation, Tom is concerned for the welfare of the Wanderer, so is following their progress.
The recordings and photos we are drip-fed are numbered, but they do not come to us, or Tom, in chronological order, which creates a somewhat disorientating experience. An interesting observation of the piece is how communicating chronic illness to others can be so challenging on both sides. In the collection of muddled jigsaw pieces, there are many gaps and the messages that Tom does receive are not always truly heard by him. He seems intent on finding the Wanderer (Maguire) so he can help them, as opposed to really connecting to the content of their messages.
Your Body is a Wasteland explores shame surrounding chronic illness, as well as links to trauma, and the ongoing efforts of survival, in thought-provoking ways. There are darkly humorous references, including an animated broadcast with text, “Tired? There’s a pill for that.” and “In the event of a serious event, try yoga.” The gallows humour, along with other elements of the story, such as wanderers in a wasteland and ‘the Seer’, may feel familiar to those who have played the game Fallout Shelter created by Bethesda Game Studios (with assistance from Behaviour Interactive).
The release of a very small fragment of content each day is rather apt as a comment on the monotony of chronic illness; it may also be preferable to some viewers. However, it requires a regular commitment from its audience. The piece is arguably the most immersive when several days can be consumed at a time, so it leaves us wondering whether the drip feed of a few minutes of content a day is really the best way to connect. Your Body is a Wasteland is not unlike a Twitter thread story in its structure but makes good use of a range of multimedia. It also might feel more like the experience of reading a book than engaging with theatre. However, it is a very accessible piece that highlights the detachment involved with chronic illness and isolates its audience by creating this individual, intriguing, and often inspiring online experience.