There’s nothing worse than using your phone during a show, right? Well, Javaad Alipoor invites, nay encourages, the audience to allow their neon-emitting devices to penetrate their production of Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran. Nowhere is this #RichKidsofInstagram culture more self-destructive than in sanction-ridden Iran, where videoing yourself setting dollar bills ablaze rings of a neo-aristocracy.
Alipoor’s production has a unique method of communicating its message. It works as an allegory, drawing comparisons between archaeology and social media. What appears to be a dive through Iranian rich kids’ drug-fuelled Instagrams, is a constructive analogy comprising Western abuse of Arab and African land, globalisation and ecological disaster. His writing is explosive, but unfortunately his performing talents require tightening.
Incorporating the story-telling mechanic of Instagram’s photo feed or story system is promising. Lucy Osborne’s set design, a series of screens serving as a backdrop, extend beyond simple visuals: they fold, flourish in colour and enhance Peyvand Sadeghian’s narrative performance, providing a blaze of smokey aesthetics, then in a split-second return to a cold two-dimensional state.
A marriage between performing arts and social media is still one finding its footing. Static images, direct feeds to Instagram and audience involvement make for a direct connection. It captures Alipoor’s poetic tone superbly, but there’s a serious lag with rounding audio as forty phones echo the speech at differing intervals.
Society never really changes; it cocoons itself in a different casing. In around five-million years, the device you’re reading this on may, if we’re lucky, have broken down into the earth. These techno-fossils, which allow the instant transfer of information, are catalysts of oppressive envy. Rich Kids suggests that future geologists will excavate and wonder — what the hell kind of civilisation were we?