I Wish I Was Lonely (Edinburgh Fringe)

This show at Forest Fringe asks ‘how much of ourselves we’ve given up to the new Gods in our pockets’

Former Fringe first winners Chris Thorpe and Hannah-Jane Walker specialise in making uncomfortable interactive shows from a mixture of poetry, social observation and audience participation.

Their last piece, The Oh Fuck Moment, asked audience members to share their greatest mistakes or regrets, I Wish… asks you for something even more personal: your mobile phone.

Having already accidentally lost one mobile phone to a fall from a fourth-floor window this Edinburgh, I confess I was feeling slightly too bruised to allow my new phone to be taken from me and placed on the circle drawn on the middle of the floor in the flexible performance space at Forest Fringe.

Even so, seeing the large collection of smart-phones all lying flat, vulnerable, breakable and open to being interfered with, I still bought totally into just how tense the situation feels. It’s kind of horrific just how much we rely on our phones and how personal their contents are to us. I Wish… lands this realisation with a real thump.

But perhaps our relationships to our phones isn’t the real question of I Wish… so much as something a bit deeper, more profound and fundamental – the issue of missing people, and whether a text or a call is ever enough. And whether, by enabling all sorts of displacement activities – let’s face it, we can kill hours on our phones just refreshing Facebook or Twitter, or texting, or playing games – our phones are actually keeping us apart from the world just that bit more.

I’m not sure I 100% buy that argument, and I think most of us – especially in Edinburgh, which seems to involve infinitely more human, face-to-face contact than London life generally affords – know and understand that texting someone far away is no substitute for seeing them. But the radical suggestion that instead of allowing ourselves to be mollified by a message we should take steps to make those face-to-face encounters happen recalls the angrily painted slogans of the Situationists.

I Wish I Was Lonely isn’t really a show about our relationship to our phones, it’s about the whole way in which we allow our lives and reality to be structured. In fact, on a symbolic level, it’s one of a significant collection of shows in Edinburgh which comes damn close to demanding a revolution now.

– Andrew Haydon