A recording of a 2015 theatre show called Going Viral, about a virus that that sweeps the world causing the afflicted to weep continuously, is released free to view online.I imagine you might think that you’d avoid it like the plague.
But, actually, do take a look—and do make a donation to the artist Daniel Bye if you can—because it is terrifically thoughtful and playful. It is not so much theatre to take your mind off of the current situation but rather one that concentrates it, not least in the way that it reminds that privilege plays its part in who does and doesn’t survive viral infections, which countries are equipped to deal with them and which ones are not.
Bye, whose newest show, These Hills are Ours (co-created with Boff Whalley) was due to open at Shoreditch Town Hall later this month, and whose last solo show, Arthur, about genetics and inheritance, featured his eight month old son and was performed to small audiences in Edinburgh last summer, is a theatre-maker of huge curiosity and an engaging presence. Both are to the fore in Going Viral.
Daniel Bye & Boff whalley in These Hills Are Ours.
The filming is simple and as the show takes place in the round and has lots of audience interaction, it feels much more like a theatre piece than high-end end-on recordings of shows. The informality works to its advantage, making you directly feel involved.
Beginning by sharing hand sanitiser with the audience, Bye tells the story of a man, asymptomatic but harbouring a virus, who flies from Kampala to Heathrow — in the process, infecting those who come into contact with him with a virus which causes uncontrollable weeping. The man is a super-spreader and soon he is infecting the world while others race to contain him.
Still from Daniel Bye in Going Viral.
What’s great about this is not just its obvious topicality as it raises questions around responsibility and empathy but also the way it succeeds in combining seriousness with a pleasing impishness and invention. The show has an unexpected use for Liquorice Allsorts, there is a quiz about how diseases are spread, and you will definitely know more about viruses at the end than you do at the beginning.
But this is so much more than simply a performance lecture. Rather it's 70 minutes that raises all sorts of questions about how governments fight disease and one that reminds that when it comes to viruses our bodies themselves are the battleground. Well worth a watch.
You can find more theatre to stream here in our new 'Streamdoor' section (easiest to browse in the app!)