Split into two sections, Beta Public X is a thought-provoking night of playfulness questioning of conventions of games performance.
The first hour involves you exploring the building whilst playing a wide range of games, from conventional console games, to open ended you-make-up-the-game experiences.
Highlights from the first hour include Claire Kwong’s Chromapose and Interpose, which asks the audience to find a partner, and ‘dance’ using software which challenges them to make two circles to meet on the screen. This develops into a playful yet tender performative game which questions the role of technology in both dance but primarily intimacy and human relationships, a profound question cleverly asserted by placing technology as both the connection and the divide between the two participants.
Already Been Chewed by Claire Carré, plays on mutual discomfort and intimacy whilst pushing the limits of how poetry is consumed. By framing Carré’s poem as a visual journey steered by a bubble-gum smothered Xbox controller, she pushes us to embrace and explore the shared disgust and for intimacy between technology and human.
Overall, the first hour undermines assumptions about performance and gaming while quietly asking why we follow rules and conventions and what happens when we don’t. For someone new to gaming it is mostly accessible and enjoyable while occasionally baffling and disorienting.
The second hour, whilst more conventional theatre, is harder to find a way into. The first performance consists of Graham Dunning performing techno music, having swapped the sounds from Half-Life with sample rave. An unconventional premise with unexpected potential. This is initially unengaging as no explanation is given which isn’t inherently an issue however the extensive description and details explained, somewhat destroy the magic and guesswork which could allow for a playfulness and humour to develop. This short piece unfortunately jumps from inaccessibility to over explanation.
Penultimately comes the sharp and perceptive A Short Introduction to Game Theory, which acts as a layered cautionary word about the dangers of unquestioningly following data. Playing a charismatic yet coercive character, Nat Norland knowingly develops, plays with and eventually challenges the audience’s trust in the performer. Asking audience members to place faith in him and engage, Norland offers a nuanced take on the role of Game Theory and how it can be manipulated and dangers underneath this, lay a perceptive and considered exploration of trust and communication.
The night closes with a participatory puzzle on the stage which grows into a collaborative experience which asks spectators to work out a puzzle then perform the text pieced together. Initially an exciting engaging deconstruction of performative conventions, the actual text put together feels occasionally vague and out of place. Maybe I’ve missed something. 3/5
Review written by Charlie Froy
Beta Public X was shown on Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th October 2019 at the Camden People’s Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…
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