“We can't stop watching ourselves.” Does every generation think it is the first to have had to deal with an obsession with how people look? Despite the new-fangled technology, this year's Fringe presentation from Talking Shop Ensemble shows how things have not changed much since I was young (back in the 1640s). There are just more opportunities now to see and be seen.
In FAT, being watched is both an aspiration and a threat - “I'll never be alone; I'll be watched” - as this group of six young people battle against a barrage of perfect and imperfect images and soundbites, within which they try to construct their identities. Surrounded by products – there are lots of products – and to a cracking soundtrack, the ensemble create many strong moments in this devised piece: Louise Melinn transforming herself with Nutella into her own grotesque parody, funny and tragic at the same time, stands out.
However, the obsession with appearances is here represented rather than challenged: an onstage video camera is never plugged in (frustratingly, given the screened projections to the rear) and the revolt, when it comes, is in the form of chocolate cake. Presenting superficiality, of course, risks superficiality – but a stronger dramaturgical hand might steer this high energy piece towards something that probes deeper under the skin.