For those unfamiliar with the television series Black Mirror, it’s a science fiction exploration of the dangers of technology, and modern society’s use and abuse of it – a theme that director Rob Appleby, of The Phnom Penh Players, hopes to channel in his new original play The Need to See.
A cautionary tale, the play follows Mac, the main character, as he gets a cybernetic implant in his eye to get a better job, impress a girl, and also to help an old friend take down an evil corporation. All seems well – too well, indeed – until he learns that anyone could take control of his new eye, and everything starts going wrong. The rest of the play captures Mac’s slow mental decline to its grim conclusion.
“We see so many new gizmos and technology,” Appleby said, “and it’s very easy to abuse them. We should think twice about the future and the technology we use.”
Yet, for a play so worried about the consequences of technology, it certainly does rely a lot on it. Apart from the main action onstage, there are two screens by each side – one shows the view through Mac’s eyes, the other the view from his phone. There are different coloured lights for different kinds of scenes and video that has to be coordinated carefully.
During The Post’s rehearsal visit, the crew ran into some technical problems, which perhaps drives home the point on relying on technology.
The Need to See is Appleby’s first original play, but he gets his directing inspiration from Shane Meadows, a British independent filmmaker who encourages an improvisational acting style.
Meadows’s method allows actors to express their own personalities, which results in appearing more real, according to Appleby.
This is somewhat of a double-edged sword, however, according to Joshua Meisenbacher, who plays Mac. While he enjoys that the character feels so personal and close to who he is as a person, it can also get “very intense”.
“I try method acting as much as possible,” said Meisenbacher, “so it’s hard to come back down once I reach a lot of intensity”.
So what should audiences take away from the play? “Just think about your decisions,” Meisenbacher said. “Don’t do something you would regret.”
The Need to See will be showing tonight until Sunday at the Department of Performing Arts, Street 173, at 7:15pm. Tickets are available at Tusk, Show Box, and Eleven One for $10.