Safe Space

Safe Space
Safe Space
Produced by Teater V
Starring Fillipa Suenson, Lucia Vinde Dirchsen, Theresa Hedelund, Mathias Bøgelund and Mette Ahrenkiel
More information and tickets here

by Bernie C Byrnes

In response to the ongoing Covid-19 catastrophe occurring in live theatre, TEATER V (Copenhagen) has launched a new, digital theatre platform: FUTURE V. Safe Space is their first made-for-digital play created specifically to be performed in a digital space and I was excited to experience it. The audience is told beforehand they will be muted and that turning your camera on is optional, which in my current lockdown state of unsociable dishevelment felt very welcome. It came as a bit of a surprise then when Emil (Creative Producer but here being ‘Box Office’ – I’m assuming it was the same person, he only gave his name as ‘Emil’ when I quizzed him for it) greeted me by name before the show. I felt ‘seen’, ‘present’, this is not what I expect from a trip to the theatre… Having felt obliged to turn my camera on (totally because of me, nobody made me) I found myself self-consciously interacting with another human being. I should probably send him a note of apology.

No sooner had I (almost) settled to chatting with Emil, I was whisked backstage for a meeting with Co-Writer and Director Pelle Koppel. At first I thought ‘wow these guys treat their reviewers really well’ until I realised everyone gets the same welcome. Each audience member is greeted individually, and you can hear everyone who joins after you chatting away – you can even talk to them if you feel like it. It makes for an unusually intimate atmosphere and this intimacy is made all the more weird by being able to see into other people’s homes. I was intrigued, disturbed and on very unfamiliar ground – and the piece hadn’t even started yet!

My discussion with Pelle was about the ‘liveness’ of theatre and his big plans for the future of Digidrama, pretty much an informal account of his press release:
“Many major theatres have produced successful and compelling quarantine initiatives, by transposing pre-filmed theatrical work onto digital screens. These have been successful initiatives and they work well, but for me they are essentially film, not theatre. With FUTURE V we want to create a joint experience of “now”, we wanted to be able to give audiences the unique experience of theatre, presented in a digital space. Everyone will experience being present together in the now, and at the same time at home in front of their screens and as an audience, you can react / interact, by amongst other things, clapping digitally at the actors. Equally important, in a time where the arts are crying out for support, this platform creates a space where tickets can be sold thus ensuring the theatre, and artists have a business model that doesn’t rely on a physical space. Beyond that, our next step will be the development of a separate theatre-on-demand version of FUTURE V with additional new DigiDrama shows which will operate at reduced price.”
– Pelle Koppel, director of TEATER V and the man behind FUTURE V.

By this point I didn’t know what to expect next – a mindset well suited to the drama about to unfold. Ene has received a brown envelope in the post. It gives no clues as to the sender and its contents have deeply unsettled her. She feels unsafe and she needs witnesses. She has her own livestream channel, but tonight she has chosen a more intimate forum; one which needs a special link to attend. During her broadcast she disappears.

More characters are introduced in the guise of audience members and as the action gets passed between narrators like a baton, more people start to mysteriously disappear. It’s clever and someone has thought really hard about how to make this medium work. One particularly effective section follows Luka running through the streets streaming from his mobile phone. At times it feels uncomfortably like the drama will break into your living room in a physical form. Throughout the action you can see the rest of the audience (including yourself) watching and periodically we are shown as a group in response to questions. To watch is to be included in the action. It all feels very ‘meta’ and unsettling.

Safe Space claims to be a dark story about loneliness, confrontation, and the hard choices in life. A more accurate description is a brilliantly acted thriller inspired by the true crime currently driving our consumption of documentaries, podcasts, books and audio. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the drama towards the end gets a bit too emotionally private to feel credible for a livestream but it’s a cracking bit of theatre and not like anything I’ve experienced before. I’ve seen similar attempts to create these pieces but nothing as well designed. As what feels set to be live theatre for the foreseeable future, it’s great to see some ‘out of the box’ thinking going on. Did I enjoy it? Not really, I don’t like to be part of the action and I wish I’d washed my hair. Did I appreciate it? 100%.


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