Thursday took me to a black box theatre at the Tron to see a preview of a new production from Amy Conway called Super Awesome World, described as ‘a brand new autobiographical show about video games that invites the audience to join Amy Conway as allies in her fight against depression’. This was a preview, so the following is a review of a preview – a pre-review – before it moves to London and then onto the Fringe. But the show is pretty much in its final incarnation, and it’s beautiful.
First, we learned about the benefits of gaming in developing grey matter. So convincing was it that I almost wanted to go home and replay my beloved Lego Star Wars immediately, in the name of cognitive development. Along with designer Rob Jones, Conway created her own personalised NES-style* game for the show (AMAZING), which, in true retro videogame fashion, included a platitude spouting ‘spirit guide’ who accompanied us on a quest to defeat ‘The Darkness’ in this interactive performance. The game leapt into life as the audience assisted in completing various challenges involving inflatable hammers and tossing balloons about. It was simple but very effective in creating the spirit of teamwork.
As we continued on our quest, ‘The Darkness’ loomed. Leaving the house, remembering to eat, keeping it together because everyone thinks you are doing really well and are so brilliant; these are just a few of the obstacles Amy had to overcome. It wasn’t preachy, or pretentious. Rather, it felt very, very real. In opening up, Conway gave us the opportunity to do so as well. We felt we could share our darkest secret with her, safe in the knowledge that she would protect it with her life, as all heroes should.
On a simple stage populated mostly by brightly coloured blocks, different worlds (both in the ‘real’ black box theatre and inside the videogame) were created through simple yet bold physical motion and thoughtful lighting and sound design. There was no shifting scenery or animated moving parts – this was stripped back, technically astute and bright theatre.
The audience participation was a crucial part of the show and in the grip of a lesser performer, perhaps feet shuffling and blank gazes would have ensued. However, Conway’s warmth and command was such that anyone sitting in front of her wanted to join in and take her hand. She had a presence that showed us the many faces of depression as well the many facets of her skills. A consummate writer and performer, Conway harnessed her personal experiences to produce a show that was thoughtful as well as damn entertaining.
I left feeling sated, thoughtful and excited to see it again in Edinburgh. Depression is a subject in need of more voices, more understanding and more action, so the creativity and passion with which Super Awesome World addressed the matter felt incredibly valuable. It was just brilliant.
Super Awesome World is on at Summerhall at the Fringe. 2nd, 4-13th, 15-27th August.
* Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo’s first home videogame console, released in the UK in 1986