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Stunner – Camden People’s Theatre

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Creators: Eleanor Hope-Jones, Rachel Eames, Kate Rowsell, Annie Philbin and Gabi Spiro.

The chance to walk freely around an art exhibition without a one-way system may be some weeks away but Palomar Theatre & Artists have created an interactive digital theatre experience which gives the user the chance to control the direction by selecting their own journey around the Stunner Gallery available as part of the Camden People’s Theatre’s Sprint Digital festival.

This intriguing experience which takes around 50-minutes to complete gives the audience a series of choices to make, either clicking on a picture or statement that takes their path in an alternative direction and ensures that no two experiences of Stunner will be the same. Each decision takes you to a short, embedded video which offers a different abstract perspective on the life of a woman using changing artistic approaches to tell these varied stories.

Depending on your starting point, the videos include a family story in which a mother struggles to maintain her ordinary routines while longing for some personal time as belief and sex merge in her narrative, represented through pop art-influenced images and periods of black-screen audio drama. Another piece also draws on collage to inform its animated style, placing cuts of the performers on top of the photographic background in which an art student struggles with being watched and judged by her fellow classmates and the line-crossing teacher.

A similar concern with the objectification of women runs through one of the most impactful tales presented as a video game in which a waitress must endure sexist and derogatory comments from men throughout her shift as she becomes increasingly worn down by the pressure to perform. This is not an experience the audience can actually control but that just makes its themes all the more potent.

The final two stories (at least within this set of choices) are the most intangible, looking at two sisters who resent one another while connecting to childhood memories of the sea, curry nights, their absent mother and pregnancy but its main point is a little hazy. A more straightforward art piece which is hand drawn, obscured and painted over in front of us is one of the most visually engaging but its gallery-set story, in which a painting takes control of her own visual presentation, takes a while to arrive at its conclusion, distracting the audience with the emerging shapes and patterns being created by the unseen artist.

There are various recurring images and themes across this anthology of works, many of which include eyes turned on the individual, sometimes burning and sometimes being blotted out violently as the subject rejects their intrusive gaze. Turtles also appear in several of the stories, although the affection for them is less clear among the wider exploration of the expectations placed on women.

Palomar Theatre & Artists comprises Eleanor Hope-Jones, Rachel Eames, Kate Rowsell, Annie Philbin and Gabi Spiro who have collectively devised the interactive online ‘Gallery’ available on demand for a week as part of the festival. Filled with impressive video and graphic techniques, Stunner is a smart exploration of being watched; just don’t forget to visit the gift shop on the way out.

Runs until here 13 June 2021

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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