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Stay Safe – New Perspectives Theatre, WhatsApp

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Jack McNamara

Trick or Treat may be cancelled this year, but there are still chills to be had, for adults at least, in New Perspectives’ latest production, a conversation over WhatsApp. If ghosts and ghouls are too fantastical to be scary then Stay Safe gets results by showing the uncanny nature of mundane technology that we too often take for granted. Here the haunted house is refigured into the phone in your hand.

Joining a WhatsApp group of parents whose children all go to the same school, you witness the usual last-minute texts, as they pack their kids’ bags for the next day, asking whether tomorrow is PE and what kit they should prepare. Almost hidden in these jolly messages is one by Florence Stone asking if any of the parents have heard of a new teacher with the name of Mr Mathers. It takes a while for her voice to be heard.

Slowly, we hear how Florence’s son met the mysterious Mathers when he went back into school to collect his bag, and now it seems that her son has gone missing. At first none of the other parents realise how serious matters have become, and some insist in sending inappropriate memes and emojis. However, when Florence starts sending audio files the mood in the group changes as they begin a search to find the missing boy.

The messages come at quite a pace ensuring that there is no let up in this 40 minute conversation, which is both a modern Gothic and a warning of how easily technology can be penetrated by hackers. Impressively, New Perspectives Theatre has reconfigured the theatrical space to one which can lay in our hand, with the audio clips and short films ensuring that the experience is different from reading a book. The mobile phone is breached in this performance and is similar to Dante or Die’s User Not Found, which had people caressing their phones’ screens for comfort and consolation.

However, New Perspective’s production is more creepy than User Not Found, and you might drop your phone in shock rather than use it as a conduit for support. But what else should you expect on Halloween? As the title of the show suggests, stay safe.

Runs until 31 October 2020

 Available here

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