‘Midnight Movie’ – A meta musing on digital escapism

While having a few glitches of its own, Eve Leigh’s tale is a smart look at Internet freedom – ★★★★

Like a weird, multimedia pick-and-mix, you can choose what meaning to find in Leigh’s abstract and metaphorical Midnight Movie. Although, it would be rather ironic to say that, in this story about the choice and opportunity available to us online, that is kind of the point. In one instance it is a stark indictment of our mindless social media scrolling, in another, it contemplates our permanently digital records.

With direction from Rachel Bagshaw (The Shape of Pain), Midnight Movie is restless. As a metronome slowly ticks away on a shelf in a corner of the bedroom set, everything else in this 80-minute production moves at a rapid pace. One ‘avatar’ (Tom Penn) hammers some impressive drum solos as he thinks aloud, the other (deaf actress Nadia Nadarajah) uses ancient mythologies to describe the online world with vivid, sweeping sign language.

The involvement of British Sign Language (BSL) is one way in which the show is multi-sensory and accessible. In its staging, Midnight Movie creatively combines captioning, BSL and audio description, with all performances being in a relaxed environment. Ahead of its run, the production also launched a ‘digital body’, for the benefit of those “whose physical body can’t make it to the show”.

The ‘digital body’ is the motif at the heart of Leigh’s musings, referring to our ability to be transported anywhere online when our flawed physical body may ground us to one specific place (for example, a bedroom). Yet after jumping between tales of midnight movies, water goddesses and more, it takes a while for an original message to emerge. Commentary on our social media obsession, while imaginatively – and at times crudely – described, feels a tad unoriginal. Instead, its the remarks on the escapism it offers disabled people is the most intriguing aspect of this elaborate piece – though as a deaf and disabled person myself, I may be biased in finding and making that point.

To some, Midnight Movie may seem guilty of being too elaborate, with little to bring us back to the real-life, offline world on stage. However, this somewhat digital anthology offers many intriguing short stories for us to browse.

Midnight Movie is now playing at The Royal Court until 21 December.

Production Images: Helen Murray.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch Midnight Movie for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.

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