Ah, the World Wide Web! What a veritable treasure-trove of
weird and wonderfulness it is. Why, you might even find a website dedicated to
hippopotami and then raid its guestbook for material for a show at the
Edinburgh Fringe. And a damn fine idea that would be, too!
Chris Goode is a Fringe First-winning theatre-maker of some
ten years’ standing, who specialises in unusual concepts. (His acclaimed play
without dialogue, “Longwave”, is also on in Edinburgh this year.) In the case
of “Hippo World Guest Book”, he is exploring aspects of online communication,
and the various ways in which it challenges our traditional understanding of
the relationship between utterance and meaning. And if that all sounds a bit
high-falutin’, may I quickly add that it’s also deeply, seriously bloody funny
Essentially, what Goode has done is to print off about six
and half years’ worth of postings onto the Hippo World guestbook, and then
whittle these down to about a tenth of the size. In the process, although he
has obviously had to edit at a macro-level – that is, cutting out complete
postings – he has preserved every detail of the postings he’s kept. That means
typos, weird spams, and – crucially – following the convention that writing in
capitals equals shouting.
Of course, as you’d expect, some of the best bits occur when contributors take a
dislike to each other and the online vitriol flows. Oddly, however, the
occasions when they are in support are also compelling, even moving. The
highlight of the piece, however, comes with a lengthy spam-riddelled email that
is cleverly melted together with a choral music background: meaning slips its
moorings and we glimpse spam as incantation. The guy might just be a genius.