Three young people stand aligned facing the audience under bright lights. They are here today to tell us their stories. Not to entertain us but to defend themselves. Once they finish, we will be asked to decide who is guilty casting our votes by a show of hands.
Before seeing Theater Jugendstil’s latest production, I didn’t fully understand what a ‘smack cam’ was. It seemed to be one of those popular terms everyone in the internet uses, but which no one has taken the time to discuss beyond the Urban Dictionary.
Luckily for me, the opening monologue explained this concept very clearly and with lots of detail. Someone goes about their daily lives without knowing they are being recorded. Typically relaxing or doing household chores. Then another person appears and hits them in the face, shouting: SMACK CAM! The smacked person’s face ends up full of cream, shaving foam or ketchup.
In 2016, a video of a teenage gang beating a 15-year-old girl in Vienna was uploaded to the internet and quickly reached 4.5 million views. This led Theater Jugendstil to enquire into the massive production and consumption of this kind of videos. Why are these acts of violence recorded and then shared on the internet? Who watches these videos and why? Can these practical jokes get out of control? Who in this social cycle can be held responsible for the (physical and psychological) harm produced?
After the performance, there was a conversation with the audience. Young people shared their opinions and experiences regarding smack cam videos and bullying. I was impressed by their good judgement and awareness concerning online behaviour and safety. Most of them regarded all three characters to have some degree of responsibility for the violence produced in the presence of a camera.
However, by the end of the discussion I was still unable to understand the link between these laddish pranks (smack cams) and the video of 2016. In the former, people are smacked once or twice as a joke, because they are being recorded. In the latter, a young girl is beaten up repeatedly by a group of people who want to chastise or intimidate her, until they break her jaw. The recording seems to happen independently, almost by mistake.
Summary: A deep and multi-faceted analysis of how technology and the internet affect our behaviour. Warning: you must be ready to play the part of the jury!
von Raoul Biltgen
Regie: Christian Himmelbauer
Produktion: Theater Jugendstil (Susanne Preissl und Sophie Berger)
Grafik: Desiree Wieser
Technik: Andreas Bognar
mit Bernhard Georg Rusch, Susanne Preissl, Sabrina Rupp