How much of what we see on reality television is actually real? We all know that there’s more to ‘reality’ than what we see on the screen, but we still need to question whether situations are contrived, if outcomes have been manipulated, and how the raw footage has been edited to create entertainment.
These issues are under the spotlight in the theatrical work So You Think You’re Charlie Smith.
Fresh off a successful run at Fringe World 2017, young and experimental company sandpaperplane presents a new show that aims to reach into the heart of reality television and reveal the inner workings of a carefully constructed world. Written and directed by Jackson Used and Ben Thomas, So You Think You’re Charlie Smith presents an exciting and unreal world designed to challenge assumptions and sway alliances.
Three contestants on reality show The Platform discover how much is at stake when they become fierce competitors in their quest to become the next great innovator. When the pressures of producing good television start to mount up, one contestant tries to push back – and is made to pay.
Content is king, and everyone wants the crown. But when the barriers between content and person come crashing down the three contestants struggle to resist the manipulation of their producers – who will stop at nothing on their quest to strong ratings.
Hollie Hines (Gwyn), Ben Thomas (Joe) and Phoebe Sullivan (Charlie) really feed off each other and have wonderful on stage chemistry, while James McMillan (The Platform’s snarky host) and Megan Hollier (The Platform’s megabitch producer) work fantastically as the duo tasked with constantly pushing the boundaries to secure entertaining content.
It is at times (deliberately) uncomfortable to watch – but isn’t that the whole point?
With a minimalist set, quality lighting design and well-considered sound by Robert Woods, the focus is firmly on the characters as we delve into an exploration of how reality TV effects not only the contestants, but the lives of the viewers.
This is a clever piece of work by a bright group of young performers and playwrights.
My only criticism is that it felt like a 500-page script condensed down to 100 pages – at times resulting in slight confusion for the audience, who weren’t really privy to the high stakes experienced by the contestants.
That said, it was a strong performance that shone a bright, uncomfortable light on an important issue in today’s media-saturated world.
So You Think You’re Charlie Smith is on at the Blue Room Theatre until 29 April, and you can book tickets here.
Images by Jamie Breen
*I received tickets to this show in exchange for my review (thanks Very Serious creative marketing). All opinions are my own.