21st Century Peep Show at Hive 1

Hive was Vancouver’s wildly successful indie theatre installation event where audiences are encouraged to move from one site-specific show to the next over the course of the evening. Hive1 was seen at the Chapel Arts Centre in downtown Vancouver.

I conceived and directed a show in each of the three Hives. The first was called 21st Century Peep Show, a voyeuristic meditation on the mediated experience of war for two viewers.

Photography by Richard Wolfe

Critical Response

Hive blew my mind. It’s one of the most exciting artistic events I’ve ever experienced.I relished everything I saw. This evening will be the stuff of legend.

Colin Thomas – The Georgia Straight

In Theatre Conspiracy’s 21st Century Peepshow we observe a woman in a faux living room through a window while standing in a small booth. She is watching early footage of the Olsen Twins as they sing some demented Christmas song. Mindless consumption comes to mind as we absorb the scene. Then one of the twins turns on her own television and we see what she’s watching: the famous footage of the American war crime in Iraq where we hear and see the infrared footage of a soldier casually vapourizing three men, including one who had been injured.

The horror of war, the criminally disproportionate amount of technological power possessed by America and the videogame-like distance it affords the soldier is terrifying and riveting. Suddenly the actor, whirls around and confronts us with a wide-eyed and very open stare. I was tempted to kiss her, but that’s a quirk particular to me. We’re all confronted at that moment by the banality of war, the complicity of our inaction but, at the same time, the impossibility of action. What exactly am I supposed to do? And there the piece seems to end, leaving me completely satisfied.

Until I’m led into an adjoining booth to be confronted by a live video feed of the face of the subsequent person to experience the work. It’s an interesting game until the realization hits that I had just been observed by the person ahead of me. My mind quickly retraced my reaction, making sure I didn’t say or do anything stupid. Thank God, I think, I didn’t try to kiss the actor. There are multiple levels of observation that feed-back into an infinity of culpability: I’m watching someone react to the disconcerting switch from the cloying Olsen Twins to the horrible Iraq footage while I frantically rewatch myself in my mind from the imagined perspective of the person who had watched me. Am I a good person? What does my reaction say about me? How is anyone supposed to react in a world where the Olsen sisters and vapourized Iraqi men can sit so comfortably together in the same moment? Is there anything I can do to intervene or am I simply condemned to always only watch, watch, watch? How can I let this happen on my watch? How can I not?

These examples, three of the best of HIVE, confidently dispense with classical technologies of plot, character and conflict, managing to keep the action – to varying degrees – interactive, dependant on exciting contingencies and fluid. We’re implicated in the process, the work engaging directly with our culpability, responsibility and presence.

HIVE – clawing at theatre’s coffin in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside HIVE, produced by Progress Lab at The Chapel funeral home, Vancouver, B.C., November 9-11, 2006.
Reviewed by Darren O’Donnell for the Canadian Theatre Review

Creative and Production Team

Devised and Directed by Richard Wolfe
Featuring Sarah May Redmond & Cathy Falkner
Video – Pat Harrison
Set – David Roberts, Richard Wolfe & Tim Carlson
Set Construction – Christopher Wright
Fabric – Sandy Buck