User Not Found (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 12, 2018 in Theatre

Creators: Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan       Writer: Chris Goode      Director: Daphna Attias 


Firstly, this show is not found at the Traverse Theatre itself, rather it is at the Jeelie Piece Café, a modern corner coffee bar about ten minutes walk away. The show is site-specific and immersive; lattes and muffins are optional and come at extra cost.

The show asks a simple question: when someone dies, what happens to their digital property? Should someone have the right to delete that person’s e-mails, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, etc or should they be left forever to float around cyberspace. We are all familiar with the role of executors for real property, but the concept of digital executors is new to the 21st Century. Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan, along with writer Chris Goode, have created for Dante or Die productions this exploration of the role of a digital executor and they take us on a surprising and unexpectedly emotional journey.

Supplied with headphones and mobile phones, we sit quietly observing the anonymous faces around us. The soft tones of Nora Jones provide a mellow ambience and this could be 11.00 on any morning in any coffee bar. We can be forgiven for not noticing the solitary figure of Terry (Terry O’Donovan), sitting quietly in a corner, until he speaks and gives us his observations on us. And then his phone buzzes and we share the images; a dozen or so text messages appear, all expressing shock and offering condolences. Terry’s former partner of 10 years has died suddenly. The phone buzzes again and it is an e-mail from a law firm, informing him that he has been nominated to become the deceased’s digital executor.

The production has been thought through brilliantly and it is executed with absolute precision. As Terry trawls through shared memories, seen from a different perspective and uncovers previously unknown secrets, he leads us, as if through cyberspace itself and the combination of technology, heartbreaking narration and O’Donovan’s understated but deeply emotional performance generates an ethereal experience of astonishing power.

When the journey is complete, an obvious truth has been affirmed. What matters most in the digital age is what has always mattered most – family, friends and relationships.

Performance date: 5 August 2018

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

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