Sunday, July 14

Your Body is a Wasteland – Brighton Fringe Online

Your Body is a Wasteland, is a multi-media online experience being released daily-ish. Written by Emma Maguire, this is a unique and thought-provoking journey into life with chronic illness and its life changing impact on everything that you do. Featuring a combination of video, text extracts, images and audio recordings, the piece takes full advantage of the online theatre medium to create something truly original and remarkable.

There are two options to experience this piece. The Long Road allows you to explore the material in your own way. The Short Road relates the story in a linear way. Posts are still being added to the piece and this review is of the Short Road as it stands today, 20 May 2023.

Maguire plays “the Wanderer”, who has chronic illness and is wandering through the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic world. Several audio recordings relate their experiences of life in this new world. The piece is based on Maguire’s personal experience of disability and a note on the site advises that this personal piece of theatre is about their own experiences and there is no attempt to speak on behalf of the disabled community as a whole. My review is also of course written from the point of view of my own experiences and how they resonated with me, and references to what may resonate with the community as a whole are based on my interactions with other members of the community.

Video in the style of a breaking, emergency news broadcast provides survival advice to the audience which wryly imitates advice often given to disabled people to “cure” them, for example, doing yoga. This adds a nice level of dark humour which would resonate with many disabled people.

The heat tinted image with the desperate caption of “Where am I?” creates a nice sense of being lost, which is enhanced by the colours used. The audio clips create a profound sense of loneliness and a real sense of what it is like to live with invisible illness. There are some nice snippets into life before told through different lenses, for example being able to enjoy food with friends and family without worrying about intolerances. This creates a nice level of nostalgia which contrasts well with the reality of life now.

Letters from Tom (Hamish Boyle) to Nina (Bethany Miller) add another point of view and create a sense that the Wanderer is an object of suspicion, which nods nicely towards accusations of hypochondria and not being believed, particularly when illnesses are invisible. This is enhanced by the badly cared for hospital chart which has veiled references indicating disbelief. Tom does also nod towards experience of illness, for example by referring to pain increasing with the onset of winter and colder weather.

One recording of the website was unable to be played, which is unfortunate however, nothing was lost from the experience as full audio descriptions are provided with each recording, which I was able to read. Full image descriptions are also provided for images and a full audio and visual description is provided for video. In terms of accessibility, this is one of the best examples I have seen of making a full effort to ensure that the content is accessible to as many people as possible.

Maguire’s personal and honest portrayal of this experience is identifiable and eye opening. Wry humour, such as pointing out noticing you are not tired and referring to should haves, like should have brought gloves, create a sense of the day-to-day reality of living with chronic illness.

This is an intriguing piece of theatre which parallels the impact of experiencing and eventually being diagnosed with chronic illness with the world ending. This is an interesting premise which many disabled people would be able to identify with, even if this is not the full story of their experience. The story of course continues to be told in regular posts, so further development of the themes will happen and more of the story become apparent as it is released. I will be following the rest of this story with interest. The conflict between Tom and the Wanderer is bound to come to a head, and there is sure to be high drama to follow.

Your Body is a Wasteland is being streamed as part of Brighton Fringe until 4th June 2023. Tickets are available here

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 20th May 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.