Our guests today make up Insecta Theatre, a troupe describing themselves as “thriving on the rotten dirt, digging into the uncertainties and contradictions of humanity.” Their latest work, Desensitised, takes a deep dive into the internet, bringing it to the stage with all of its favourite things – violence, xenophobia, porn and more. A one-person sketch show, the piece promises to bring a unique, surreal and satirical look at our relationship to the World Wide Web. We sat down for a pixelated pint with Writer-Performer Andrew Mapperley and Director Bewlay Stanton to talk all things androids, absurdity, mental health and Absinthe.
Catch Desensitised at VAULT Festival this weekend February 4th – 5th at 17:50 and 14:50. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.
Jake: Hi Andrew and Bewlay! Your show Desensitised offers us the quixotic chance to see the very Internet itself emerge from behind our screens onto the stage, what inspired you to bring the internet into a show?
Andrew: “The internet is such a huge part of our lives but there is surprisingly little media about it, possibly because there is so much in it! So I wanted to make something about the horrors of the internet and the affect its having on our mental health but still be appealing to people who spend a lot of time online. “
Bewlay: “For me, when Andrew presented the idea, I was mainly excited to bring that energy to the stage, the overwhelming chaos of having access to everything and so much of it being horrible. I also think it’s a real case of simultaneous invention, it’s something fellow artists are finally taking a stab at (Bo Burnham’s Inside and Everything Everywhere All At Once for example) and I enjoy that feeling of being on the precipice of a new, internet infected way of storytelling.”
Jake: The show covers some pretty contentious topics that we see play out online all too often – violence, xenophobia, porn – what can the audience expect to see playing out on stage?
Bewlay: “We’ve done our darnedest to cover any and all subjects you might stumble across on the internet, no matter how gross or dark, each one has something to fear and something to laugh at and I think that’s what makes for great absurdist comedy. If you want it it’s there, if you don’t it’s probably there too.”
Andrew: “You can find any opinion on any topic on the internet and I never wanted to shy away from this or tone it down, but at the same time I wanted to make it as un-triggering as possible. I wanted people to come together and laugh at the ridiculousness of the internet but also not feel lectured at. We aimed to do this through absurdity and satire, abstracting the topic so it could be less triggering. It’s a very fine line that I hope we have got right.”
Jake: The show uses projection among other tools like satire and technology in its dark arts – tell us a little about how you integrated those things into the piece.
Bewlay: “The use of projection really helps to bring the enormity of the web to the stage, it comments on the show, it guides us through the chapters and it sees into Andrew’s very mind.”
Andrew: “The most important character for me in the play is ANDROID who we only see through the projector. He appears to be the only person who has any care for our protagonist and it was important he always feels distant to the audience, it’s very reminiscent of Zoom lockdown calls. I also have big dreams for use of technology in the future when we have a bigger budget. I really want a life-sized dancing robot.”
Jake: What are you hoping the audience take away from the piece?
Andrew: “Something that is important to me is the mental health aspect of this show. I hesitate to say that’s what its explicitly about because I always wanted to make a sketch comedy show and that’s what it is, but in writing it a more serious tone kept finding its way in which I had to eventually embrace. I don’t know the exact cause for the rapid spike in bad mental health over the past 20 years, but I know for me the internet is a big part of it. I’m not offering any answers in Desensitised, but hopefully some interesting thoughts.”
Jake: Tell us a little bit about the process of creating the show and what you have been up to ahead of the show landing at VAULT Festival.
Bewlay: “I was brought on to direct by Andrew during Launch Festival at East 15 with an unfinished script that we worked together to complete. Since then Andrew has tinkered away, refining the script into the superior version audience’s will see this weekend. Rehearsals for this show are always chaotic and on the best days feel more like two mates bouncing jokes off of each other and being silly. Then we run the show and the darkness that lies at the heart of it still takes me by surprise every time.”
Andrew: “We both recently graduated from the Contemporary Theatre course at East 15 which is where we began working on this show together. Since graduating we have both worked on different projects (The Space, Seven Dials Playhouse, The Bridge House Theatre and EdFringe).”
Jake: Now that we’re gearing up for VAULT Festival 2023, what are you most excited for?
Both: “We’re both just excited that it’s back! It’s such a great opportunity for theatre makers and a real nurturer of the strange. We’re so proud to see the sheer amount of CT (the course Andrew and I graduated from) representation at the festival, these are a horde of such talented, inventive and hilarious creatives that I couldn’t be more honoured to be entering this industry along side. Plus we can’t thank Vaults enough for Generation V that we are a part of giving young artists a chance like this really means a lot so definitely going to go see some of our friends from 4th Monkey.”
Jake: Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, mocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?
Andrew: “Absinthe mixed with monster energy: manic, psychedelic and often bright green.”