Real Virtuality

A Review of Brussaard’s Blue


Is the reality in which we live in not enough anymore? This is the opening question that the play Blue by Marijn Brussaard raises. I went to see it a couple of weeks ago for a performance studies assignment, knowing that it would be an audiovisual experience. After entering a darkened room, a man came in and started playing music on a console. I don’t know whether it was because I had never seen what was happening on stage in a theatre or because the THC kicked in at that moment, but I was very excited about what I was listening to.

After a couple of songs the protagonist, in a very deep and solemn voice, revealed that the show was going to be about the contraposition of the world. The real reality, and the new world we are creating: the virtual reality. After this monologue, the man pressed a button and a projection screen descended. From then on it was the protagonist of the performance.

“Theater makes you feel alive, engaged and personally involved.”

On that screen the man created a virtual person that resembled him. After a very long moment of suspense he started taking control of the virtual him, making movements and sounds that were almost non-human. After singing a song in Dutch that I obviously did not understand, he started projecting selfies of his real life onto the screen. They were taken in such a way that they were videos of him. After 10 minutes of this he projected pictures of himself getting naked and taking showers, covering his penis with either a hand or a plant. While the man was playing, a voice sang “I won’t die, I’m still alive” and he also got naked and came out of the screen looking at his own projection, and afterwards only darkness.

At this point I was really feeling disturbed and uncomfortable by what I was seeing. Besides being very tiring and sometimes a bit boring, the audiovisual experience was really intrusive and annoying since everything was so slow. But this is exactly what the artist was aiming at, and the last scene confirmed this. After a speech by the protagonist that included statements such as, “I hear the birds on my internet”, the light turned on again, and there was a pleasant and comforting nature scene, with clouds and with birds chirping. All my unpleasant emotions went suddenly away.

Even if the meaning got obscured from the moment in which he got naked, this show tried to warn of the possible danger of virtual reality and how we could substitute the outside world and get absorbed by it. On a small scale it was then also talking about social media, how this reality could be fake as if it’s more important to share a moment on Facebook, than living it.

This show also made me realize why I prefer theater over cinema so much. Theater makes you feel alive, engaged and personally involved. It’s relieving, like a run under the rain: what you watch doesn’t just get spoon-fed to you, going in one ear and out the other. It sticks with you and is capable of changing you, but only if you allow it to do so.


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