There is something scarily compelling about watching good actors up-close. It’s hard to imagine getting closer than a smart phone at arms’ length, shooting video-selfies, and the 25 young actors who made this piece were really good. Really good and really brave. Eleanor Hill, the writer and producer, has written twenty-five five minute long reflections on being sad and lonely at Christmas – being dumped, being depressed, being alienated. If this sounds like a lot of no fun, that’s probably true, but they are designed to be watched on 25 different days, not binged (which is what I did), so the misery is spread out. What remains is a really intense insight into other people’s lives, their concerns, their despairs, the self-lacerating responses they probably shouldn’t make but make anyway. I have never seen a vlog, which is what I believe these pieces are replicating, and I sincerely hope anyone really making a vlog is a bit less forthcoming, a bit less painfully revelatory, but these dramatisation allow an audience to absorb the pain without feeling they ought to intervene.
I have a few caveats. As I mentioned, I watched them one after the other, and they are quite stressful to watch. And, I suspect, to act. All the pieces were on the same theme: loneliness, abandonment, self-harm. I’d like to see Eleanor Hill looking a bit wider for her subject-matter. She writes really well, and she is excellently served by all her actors, and watching essentially the same story being told 25 times by 25 different actors is fascinating, but I wanted to hear about some different things, different traumas. Maybe even one or two cheerful tales of reciprocated feelings and seasonal good times? Most problematic was the uniformity of casting; mostly white, good-looking young women, all articulately middle-class, all looking a bit like E15 Acting School, class of 2019. More variety, even maybe a man or two, would have given some nuance. That said, I was blown away by the intensity and daring of most of the performances, and I look forward to seeing more of Ms. Hill’s work, maybe on a real stage. Instagram and IGTV is an interesting platform, and absolutely appropriate for this, but watching stuff on my phone is a limited kick, even if it gives me the privilege of watching fine acting from this close.