Edinburgh Fringe Festival: I Wish I Was Lonely, Chris Thorpe and Hannah Walker

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Chris Thorpe and Hannah Walker, following their last show, The Oh Fuck Moment, bring another audience-exposing theatre piece that challenges our perspectives, this time in the form of I Wish I Was Lonely. Exploring our relationship with technology, in particular our constant attachment to mobile phones for connecting and engaging with others, Thorpe and Walker’s piece is a subtle but provocative piece to shift our connection with technology.

How often are you without your phone? Recent studies suggest that around 70% of young people are within arm’s-length of their mobile phone at all times. That’s an arm’s-stretch from calling, texting, tweeting or emailing someone 24 hours a day. We’re at the point now that communication between individuals is so enabled that we forget what it’s like to be truly alone, and when we are, we generally crave that connection with another even if it’s through an electrical device. Even the simple act of leaving your phone at home can feel like you’ve severed a limb in the process. When did we become so dependant upon our need to communicate hrough mobiles?

I Wish I Was Lonely combines our own use of our mobiles with tasks, stories and poetic text conducted by Thorpe and Walker. Upon entering the space we write our mobile number on a card which is then randomly distributed to the rest of the audience members. We call the number and leave a voicemail; the room erupts with beeps and whirls of our phones as voicemails are left and received. We place our phones in the centre of the performance space and watch as they tweet and chirp in our absence. We sit opposite a stranger and stare, unflinching, into their eyes for two minutes.

We do all of this to understand our connection with our phones, how at times they aid us, such as in emergencies or when a real connection is needed with a loved one or a friend, but we’re also shown by the sheer number of texts and calls received during the show just how much we’re constantly connected. Thorpe and Walker, in understanding this drain upon our energies, encourage us to delete contacts from our address book, as if we’re on a detox. A deep cleansing, only flirted with through the suggestion that someone’s phone might be removed of all data; how would we react?

The elements of text that are dispersed throughout the performance are as to be expected from Thorpe and Walker’s combined writing powers: poetic and cascading with images that ripple through your mind. There’s a cheeky playfulness to the work, but ultimately it helps us to really question and engage with those around us instead of those people we communicate with through small electrical devices. It may not end our obsession with communication but it might just get us switching off for a few moments to experience loneliness, whatever that is.

Originally published on A Younger Theatre.