STRAWBERRY VALE 2.0 - Ovalhouse (work-in-progress)

The use of computers and digital technology projections in theatrical has been steadily increasing in recent years. While the likes of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Nether have helped with awareness of the limits of its use, the real questions paradoxically are can its use ever feel 'organic' to a production and does digital tech ever fall in danger of sacrificing humanity for sophistication?

Theatre company 9 Grams Of Moon have attempted with their show Strawberry Vale 2.0 to avoid such pitfalls by focusing on a coming of age story where playing computer games and diving into one's creativity play second to the nuts and bolts of storytelling. This, however, conversely serves as a fitting metaphor for the transition in the use of technology from childhood to adulthood.

Written and directed by Emi Tse and Jessica Kathryn (with Kathryn also the primary performer in the show) Strawberry Vale 2.0 focuses on Gin, a teenager who should be revising for her exams. When we first see her via pre-recorded filmed footage, we see that she'd understandably would rather do anything else than revise.

As a gesture to growing up, Gin decides she'll have one more day of playing computer games and immersing in her own creativity. Like any tale of fantasy, she's transported to her own imaginary world.

At the beginning we see the father briefly, who gives Gin a slice of toast for dinner. This absent-mindedness which borders on neglect could be the actions of a man in shock, mourning for his wife. In any case, the absence of Gin's mother throws up all sorts of questions and potential threads for pursuit in the next, extended version of the play.

Since seeing this work-in-progress, I have seen other shows that have used rudimentary forms of graphics and animation, but Strawberry Vale still shows the most promise and innovation in the way it has been used in storytelling.

I look forward to seeing the next stage of the show, which should be ready around Spring 2017.

© Michael Davis 2016


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