Tidy Carnage’s Shame explores both the destructive and redemptive potential of the internet. Engaging and precise in its message and intent, it’s an effective and sensitive-handled study of a timely issue.
In an age when unfiltered online content can be shared on to thousands of further susceptible eyeballs with one click (and crucially, without consent), Tidy Carnage’s Shame is a opportune study of a macro issue at a micro level.
Our protagonist is Vicky (writer and solo performer Belle Jones), whose 15-year old daughter has become victim to a compromising video rapidly circulating around school peers and a wider (faceless) digital audience. We connect with the latter, Keira, entirely through a combination of status updates and projected ‘vlog’ episodes (all occurring before the drunken sex act); Sarah Miele give an astutely believable and warm digital performance as the young tech-savvy girl with a notable growth in confidence (and vlogging production values!) in each segment.
The simplicity of this Glaswegian company’s production is what makes it engaging and effective. Jones commands a wonderful, calm and slightly hypnotising stage presence – alternating between standing and sitting in front of one singular rear projected screen and delivering short expositional monologues in-between video interludes. Structurally, this linear form just about holds together (the piece is just short enough for it to not become too repetitive) – and Vicky’s live reactions (and interactions) with the videos in the latter half serve to interestingly blur the two mediums and ensure proceedings don’t become monotonous.
The writing also smartly – and boldly, perhaps – looks beyond the simple, well-trodden argument that the internet simply represents the beginning of the end. The piece concludes with an example of its redemptive or healing potential. In fact, the company propose a solution to tackle the whole notion of ‘revenge porn’ which extends beyond the 60-minutes running time into the real-world. Jones is keen to point out during the curtain call that the #Unshamed project is not fictional, but underway alongside the work. Audience members are encouraged to engage with the project, uploading videos to their own social media channels which essentially reclaim agency of their own embarrassing stories which might otherwise end up online outside of their control, thus normalising and avoiding shame.
I must admit I’m not entirely sold on the solution – one, because there’s a slight difference between footage of someone talking to camera, and compromising footage of someone’s naked body or involvement in a sex act making the rounds (I’m not sure the former exactly eradicates or counters the embarrassment or incrimination of the latter). And secondly, because you could argue talking openly about your secrets on social media (and expecting people to care) is somewhat contributing to the concerning narcissistic of the platforms in itself, and may even path the way for self-disclosed stories to be later used against people.
Regardless of my thoughts about #Unshamed (and I fully appreciate I may not know the intricacies of the project enough for that to be entirely fair), I appreciate the fact a clear and actionable solution is proposed – and if it makes people feel empowered to regain ownership of their own online identities, I fully welcome any audience members who want to engage.
Much like the writing, the luminous blue strings that connect the central screen to the sides of the stage paint a clear and profound picture of the enticing but entrapping nature of Web 2.0. The word ‘web’ takes on a double-meaning here; it’s possible to get stuck within it and become prey. Shame offers a sensitively-handled example of one young person getting caught up in such a web, and spat out.