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  • Flora Gosling

Review: Seen 00:25 (C Aquila)

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

A dark but disjointed multimedia performance about anorexia and the internet

Social media, especially content consumed by young people and Gen Z, can often seem like an exclusive club. Algorithms become increasingly specific, alt-right pipelines become solidified, and dangerous trends are recycled from platform to platform. One of the most tight-knit and harmful online communities out there is “pro-ana”, the promotion of anorexia and the defence of it as a “lifestyle choice”. Candela May’s multimedia solo performance Seen 00:25 explores the experiences of someone caught in this community and highlights the harm it can inflict.

May plays a young woman, Miss A, suffering from anorexia and obsessed with being “cool” and “sick” like the girls on Instagram. The performance takes us right to the heart of Miss A’s life, depicting a day spent indoors filming content for social media, having imaginary conversations with celebrities, and avoiding eating a cupcake. The way that May engages with the audience speaks volumes about how her character’s attention is focused: when the camera is rolling all her attention is drawn to it, and whenever it isn’t she fixes the audience with uncomfortable eye contact and a falsely reassuring smile. The most interesting aspect of May’s use of multimedia is the way she records videos and plays them on a loop. Her monologues, her encouragement, and her tutorials all become repetitious background noise.

It is a strong idea but it rests on an equally strong performance, one that can show layers between the different versions of herself that she presents to people. May’s performance lacks the depth needed to make the concept work, and she appears too conscious of herself on stage to effectively play a character who spends the entire performance alone in her bedroom.

That said, the activities Miss A engages in do have the daydreamy, random quality of a day spent alone in a room; singing Hannah Montana on karaoke, admiring her prominent rib cage in the mirror, and fantasising about being wooed by Robert Pattinson. But too many of these scenes feel irrelevant and lack cohesion. Even those that are directly tied to the themes of social media and anorexia are hampered by overwrought poetry, with cliched musings on having “a broken body and a broken soul” and comparisons to Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Then there is a line that takes a sharp turn from everything that has come before it: “my space is invaded like Ukraine”. Using the suffering of the people of Ukraine as a metaphor for a personal battle with an eating disorder is shockingly insensitive, and the writing is not strong enough to explain away that insensitivity as a trait of Miss A’s character.

The tone that May strikes, which is isolated, cold, and deadly, has so much potential to explore the experience of a young woman with an eating disorder. But all of that is squandered by poor, disjointed writing and a weak performance. Every Fringe we see floods of shows trying to bring attention to young people’s mental health and the damaging influence of social media. As necessary as the themes are, Seen 00:25 joins the hundreds of shows that fail to do them justice. Two stars.

Seen 00:25 will run at C Aquila 15:50 until August 21


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