Theatrical device? The actors who want your mobile phone to go off in the auditorium

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

Audiences will be reminded to leave their mobile phones on at a new play at Pulse Fringe Festival in Ipswich on Monday.

And if they ring out during it they will be actively encouraged to take the call. I Wish I Was Lonely by Hannah Jane Walker and Chris Thorpe (whose hit show The Oh Fuck Moment invited audiences to share their most embarrassing mistakes with the room) explores what it means to be always available and why we can’t switch off.

“It’s about how these devices interrupt our thoughts and have destroyed our ability to be usefully lonely,” says Thorpe. “It’s so easy to scratch the itch of being alone now. And we don’t get to the end of our thoughts anymore.”

The show which is previewing at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Studio before a full run at the Forest Fringe in Edinburgh in August, will explore how mobile phones have changed our lives and, perhaps even the course of history, using poems and stories. “What if Rosa Parks had tweeted that she did not want to give up her seat on the bus, instead of actually refusing to give up her seat? That event might never have happened if we had the connectivity we have now” says Thorpe.

The rest of the show will take its cue from the audience themselves, who will be asked to interact using their devices, taking calls from the performers and responding to their own messages.

“With 40 people in a room for over an hour, it’s statistically very likely someone will get a call. We’re planning for these distractions but it can be quite frustrating when they come right in the middle of one of our poems”, says Thorpe. “We can’t force people to take a call in front of us. But it’s an interesting question – why are you happy to be overheard on the bus or in the street but not in the theatre?” Answers in a text, please.

Stand-ups stage a mentoring coup

In 2011, as a response to the student riots, comedian Josie Long and activist Neil Griffiths set up the Arts Emergency Service, an “Alternative Old Boys’ Network” of creative professionals to mentor and support students without connections.

The charity will launch later this month on 20 June with a benefit gig at London’s Hackney Empire. Long’s comedy colleagues Jimmy Carr, Isy Suttie, Tim Key and Kevin Eldon will star alongside passionate poet Kate Tempest and Submarine writer Joe Dunthorne among others.

Patron of the charity Stewart Lee is unable to attend but will instead give away a piece of “publicly funded art” to every audience member. Jake Chapman, a fellow patron, is also on the bill. “He’s requested a big screen, a band playing ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and a choir but we’re not sure what he is going to do with them yet. Or if Dinos will come too”, says Griffiths. 

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