Nothing to Fear – A review on Ben Ecclestone’s newest production at the Blue Elephant Theatre

With data ownership and Internet surveillance at the heart of debate in today’s society, is there really nothing to fear in this post-truth Internet-age? Ben Ecclestone’s new production creatively explores the complexities of it all and will leave you questioning more!

A beatboxing Ben Ecclestone as he unfolds a new narrative on a data obsessed world

The political, though at times light-hearted production, ‘Nothing to Fear’, is a reverberating exposition by sound artist, Ben Ecclestone. It fuses the realities of a physical and electronic world and unwraps a mysterious voyage into internet-age living. It is the first major work by the emerging sound artist and is a remarkable addition to the featured works at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell.

Ecclestone’s “part gig, part lecture” takes you on a journey as if being transported through the internet itself. The conventional narrative is flipped on its head in this production. While at times feeling like a classroom lecture and at others being blasted into a celestial existence, the short production plays with the mind. It leads you on a conflated adventure of emotion and logic, while providing a succinct education on contemporary issues surrounding data usage and ownership.

A live musical arrangement of ideas performed right before you

The uniqueness of the production is exclusively derived from its compelling use of sound and lighting. As a sound artist, Ecclestone makes full use of his astonishing beat boxing and djing ability. Using an array of sung melodic lines mixed with unconventional sounds and techniques, Ecclestone creates a platform enabling his music equipment to elicit emotion and tell a story right in front of you. One highlighted moment included the performer beatboxing and rapping over the voice of iPhone’s “Siri” voice recognition system. The live arrangement and execution of this was spectacular and also evoked a gentle chuckle among the audience.

The immersive touch, which aids your entrance into this electric world, is also enhanced by the lighting (designed by Edward Scragg). The blurriness and merging of colours under smoke builds the ambience and tantalises the eyes, helping to convey to the audience, a slightly abstruse reality. The space helps to maximise the effect of the lighting given the compact nature of the studio theatre. The theatre’s cosiness can at times feel almost vacuum-like and creates a sense of intimacy that fosters your immersion into the story being told.

“Around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today. In 1995, it was less than 1%.”

The facts and statistics that are continually narrated by Ecclestone provide a comprehensible context to the surrounding environment. The striking statistics not only help capsulise the Internet world to develop your understanding throughout the play, but also produce the classic ‘fly on the wall’ effect as you become awakened to the various facets of the Internet and the key players involved. This is felt most notably when exposed to lesser known facts that reveal the more sinister underbelly of the web, like the Government and corporate activities around data usage as well as the obscurities of the Dark Web.

Overall these elements make for an intriguing production with quite a strong political undertone that is almost campaign-like in its delivery. The narrated information and statistics are very well researched though, at times may pass over your head due to the complexity of certain concepts and techy jargon. With this said, as a first production it is truly worthy of recognition for its explorative and creatively unorthodox nature. It will definitely get you thinking and leave you questioning whom to trust!

Rated ★★★★

Photos taken by On These Isles

Blue Elephant Theatre

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