Police procedural reports, YouTube comments and Daily Mail headlines fight it out to be heard in a chilling real life story. When an online gaming relationship turns from fun to horror, personal tragedies are made public. Everyone has an opinion and no one has a filter.
Three performers find new connections from evidence and testimony each time the parlour game is played.
Created by Nathan Byrne, Zoe Hunter, Colin Little, Eve Nicol & Elliot Roberts.
Photography by Matthew Thomas for Tron 100 Festival.
I’m more than obsessed with scripts. I love being dunked into someone else’s imagination and taken somewhere outside of my daily experience. I like writing that goes beyond the extremes of human existence.
But sometimes the drama of real life exceeds anything we might create.
There was one story, a relatively recent utter tragedy that made my head spin. The crime at the heart of the case was horrific and tragic but the emotive language and narratives being carved out from police, perpetrator and parents was complex and tragic.
Parlour started as me imagining if my mammalian mates in Animal Crossing: New Leaf went feral but the more research I did on crimes spawned from online worlds, the more the research demanded to be heard.
The story that had first ignited my imagination became The Story of Parlour. A quick Google turned up more to the story that I'd seen in papers and on the news. There were whole transcripts of concerned calls to police that hint at “off-stage” drama and weighty with foreshadowing. There were vitriolic YouTube comments from people with cutesie usernames. There were the blog posts that appeared to be written by the perpetrator from prison. There were breakfast TV interviews, campaign websites and scandalised headlines. Dig a bit deeper and there were online echos of everyone involved from a time years before two young lives were destroyed.
The material was exciting, immediate and hugely human.
With dramaturg Elliot Roberts and actors Colin Little, Zoe Hunter and Nathan Byrne, we tossed dozens of sources up into the air and tried to find our way through it in order to create a fifteen-minute performance for the Tron 100 Festival. We spoke about gaming, the importance of establishing the rules and the fun being in trying to test the rules to their limits.
Parlour took the form of true-crime, cut and pate, docudrama game. To play you need:
After a round of rock-paper-scissors, the game kicks off with one reader choosing a source to read. The others then have to respond with something connected to what they hear or arguing the opposite point.
For a piece existing only of pre-existing material, it felt fitting to look to other theatre makers’ pieces. We referenced Forced Entertainment’s Speak Bitterness and mined Barrel Organ’s Nothing’s “Rules of Performance”. The ones I leaned on most heavily were:
We didn’t want to impose meaning or pass judgement on any of the real life people whose words we borrowed. We wanted the audience to listen, find their own patterns in the story, make their own connection. We wanted to replicate Wiki-holes. Late night browsing sessions. We were trying to stage the internet. We wanted to play a game.
Parlour totally played into my current curiosity about language as spectacle. What more to you need than words poured into your ears? Words are imagination seeds. Let’s plant ‘em!
All five of us were out of our comfort zone but putting together Parlour was hugely enjoyable and rewarding processes I have undertaken. I love making collages and Parlour was just that.
I discovered that working with existing material doesn't limit your creativity. You can experiment, edits and try new patterns quickly without having to commit to them. You can create something unexpected and detailed that prompts the audience to create their own interpretations. Its fun and fast.
Parlour was made in Govan at GTAC, Glasgow Arts and Theatre Collective at Water Row.
Tron 100 Festival photography by Matthew Thomas