Can one person actually change the world? Can there ever truly be safety in numbers? Is collateral damage an acceptable consequence of the fight for justice? These are just some of the questions raised by Joanne Hartstone’s thought-provoking play ‘We Are Anonymous’.
Inspired by the work of Anonymous – a worldwide network of hackers and activists known primarily for their distinctive use of the Guy Fawkes mask (the same one used in the film 'V for Vendetta') – the play follows the actions of a group of avatars who meet in a secure chat room. Bound by their shared interests in freedom and human rights, these unknown individuals gather together from all corners of the globe for one purpose – to change their world for the better.
Together they hatch a plan which they hope will do just that but when their peaceful act of rebellion becomes the catalyst for something much larger, the group is thrown into chaos. As their worlds implode they must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice for their cause and when the fight for change becomes a struggle for power, the lines between anarchy and tyranny become blurred.
Performed by senior acting students from Actors Ink and set within the dark realms of cyberspace, ‘We Are Anonymous’ makes reference to some of 2016’s biggest news stories – including the collapse of the Australian census website.
Held in the Noel Lothian Hall, this complex play is presented in a surprisingly minimalistic style and features very few physical props; relying instead on the strength of the actors’ performances and the audience’s imagination (aided by an extensive collection of sound effects and an overhead projector).
The play begins with its main character – a disillusioned young woman known only by her screen name ‘Clover’ – flipping angrily through the channels of an imaginary television, while excerpts of news stories are projected onto a small, handheld screen behind her. The Bastille Day tragedy, the nightclub shooting in Orlando, violence, hunger and corruption across the globe – each segment carefully edited to showcase everything that is wrong with humanity in a brief, yet powerful moment of channel surfing.
The unmistakable sounds of dial up internet are used to represent Clover’s journey into cyberspace while screen shots and flashes of green, matrix style code are projected across the stage and faces of the actors as they work.
Clad almost entirely in black each actor wears an intricately decorated mask which hides their identity from the audience (just as an avatar hides the identity of a computer user online) and while some of the actors use accents or subtle costume details to hint at their characters nationalities, much of their true identities remain a mystery.
Imaginative and cleverly crafted, ‘We Are Anonymous’ is a poignant reminder that the fight for change often plays out on a dangerously slippery slope and it leaves audiences with the powerful message that “Anonymous is not a group, it is not a person. It is an idea”.