Before its abandonment, Leith Theatre was an International Festival venue. During this temporary reopening for Hidden Door, it has proved itself a first rate Fringe venue. Those big, backstage spaces, once dressing rooms for orchestras and choruses, now make ideal 25-30 seater studio theatres, places for inspired and experimental new writing.
It is into one such space we are led by Jan, trainer for Ego Et Al, an online reputation management company. In a bright, blonde wig and dressed in a long, monochrome checked jacket, she looks like Alice fell down the rabbit-hole and came out in Tron. Over forty-five minutes, she’ll teach us how to construct the perfect online reputation, piecing it together attribute-by-attribute, in an interactive tutorial. With our co-trainees, we’ll debate what’s more important – beauty or courage? What physical feature is the greatest asset? Would we rather have talent or luck?
Roanna Davidson’s one-woman show, directed by Ali Anderson-Dyer, is a fun piece that gets you lightly mulling over the human condition with a bunch of strangers, if you can bear the thought. Davidson’s an engaging performer, at ease in the space, very adept at working the audience. It’s a good looking piece too, with a strong, futuristic aesthetic that runs harmoniously through costume, props and set. They’ve invested in design and it shows.
The content is woollier, however. The concept – Jan training new recruits for her company – works well enough, but our purpose is vague. We have to complete tasks on faith; we trade attribute cards and swap ideas with other teams to an uncertain end. The results of our deliberations are brought together cleverly enough at the close, but it’s been hard to properly buy in to the process.
We also get snapped out of training mode by interspersed stand-alone scenes. Davidson slips into other characters, all anxious or self-conscious about their online presence, fearful of people’s comments or gaze or attitudes. Aside from a thematic link, it’s not clear what relevance these character studies have to the main thread. The characters’ concerns are expressed in fairly generic terms too. They’re responses to the non-specific judgements of unnamed people in unknown settings. This side of the show expresses the negatives of social media’s hold on us, but in a very broad sweep.
Training at Ego Et Al beats your average workplace development programme for sure. Jan makes a good tutor. You’d give her good feedback. But we’ve only had a general overview of the topic. Our course notes read “social media – not the real you”. You feel there’s something more profound that could be said within this otherwise interesting framework.