REVIEW: Disinhibition by Christopher Bryant

Quinten Henderson in Disinhibition at MUST
photo: Aleksandr Corke

Flick, known on Instagram as Flick.Eats, and George, known on Tumblr as Boyance, are social media influencers. Flick.Eats posts FODMAP recipes and Boyance is living his best gay life online, but both are lies – constructions of the kind of personalities that get likes and shares and re-blogs. When Microsoft releases a new artificial intelligence bot onto Twitter – Tay, whose followers are #TaysTeam – the world of fake online personas gets trickier to navigate.

Who are Flick and George, really? Do they even know anymore?

Disinhibition plunges the audience right into the internet, the opening scene a perfect recreation of a Twitter interaction: someone posts a photo of their cute dog, lots of other users retweet it and someone @s the original poster, telling them their dog is prettier than they are. All social niceties are gone; people will say anything to each other online.

Presented by Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) and directed with a sure hand and clear intent by Artistic Director Yvonne Virsik, Christopher Bryant’s latest play (1) is an incisive dissection of the world of social media and how it affects people’s lives and their views of themselves. Eleven young performers take on multiple roles, evoking everything from a Twitter storm, to awkward DMs, to hook-up culture, to the use and over-use of emojis to make themselves heard.

Georgia Kate Bell
Photo: Aleksandr Corke
Theatre and the internet are strange bedfellows; in some ways, live performance might be the only time people put their phones away – and critiquing online culture hasn’t easily translated to the stage. Disinhibition finds a way to create that multi-tabbed, chorus of voices and bombardment of news I get daily on my phone and laptop as I try to interact with the world.

The play also touches on the dichotomy of a place that both allows anonymity and encourages people to be themselves. A recent viral tweet asked “Are you the same person in real life as you are on Twitter?” And, of course, even if you’re on Twitter as yourself, you’re not always presenting every mood or every moment, high or low. Christopher Bryant’s work tackles this head-on, knowing that people aren’t even the same across different socials.

We’re different on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumbler and in real life. And yet, perhaps, this combination of different facets of ourselves might hint towards our real personality. Or maybe, with each reiteration, we get further and further from our true selves.

The ensemble of actors is young, and perfectly placed to embody a generation who doesn’t know the world without the internet. They are engaging and awkward and sincere and hilarious and powerful. For every rough moment, the audience is delivered a sublime interaction that struggles with the question “Is the internet good for us?”

Bryant doesn’t have an answer, of course. It’s fuck yes and hell no. And through slivers of conversation and difficult encounters with the internet famous, somehow there’s a comfort in knowing that we are all in the same boat – trying to be ourselves online, but never quite making it.

(1) While Disinhibition opened on 28th September, Bryant had another play open on 29th September at Theatre Works, titled The Other Place. I struggled with this one. The potentially interesting parallel stories of female theatre-makers from the 1970s felt too cerebral, not enough heart. The Other Place is on at Theatre Works until Sept 8th