SINGAPORE — Are we truly who we are online? Be it loneliness, the search for love or a fear of missing out, we have all found ourselves on dating apps and social media.
Contemporary Mandarin play “Catfished” explores the imminent impact of technology and its influence on modern day relationships. Inspired by American legal comedy drama television series Ally McBeal, scriptwriter and producer Dennis Toh had set out to write three female leads in the play in hopes to provide a platform for more women-centric voices.
The women are drawn into the alluring world of social media, each attempting to find themselves while getting caught in the web between virtual and reality.
Pursuing love and keeping up with appearances in a digital age
We follow the stories of Bee Ling, a career-minded woman who attempts to find love again after being recently scammed on Tinder; Audrey, a married woman who struggles to connect with her husband and spends too much time on Facebook; and Celia, who catfishes dates online after recently ending a longstanding love affair.
At their core, all three women are in search of love. While technology can be a useful tool for connection, it can also lead one into deception and a loss of identity. As the play unravels, the characters become subservient to social media and technology as a tool to avoid pain and their problems.
We witness the progressive breakdown of Audrey’s relationship, actively keeping up with an online persona and searching for validation through social media, as a distraction from her loveless marriage. We empathise with Bee Ling’s plight of changing herself and comprising her likes and dislikes for the sake of a speed dating love interest – from her dressing to her food preferences.
“I think women take on multiple roles and their stories ought to be told including the intricacies of their life in marriage and work. I really marvel at the things they have to juggle,” shared Toh.
“It is a powerful play that challenges our assumptions about the impact of technology on how we seek out relationships in the modern digital age. The play explores the ways in which technology has blurred the line between our true selves and our online personas, and how it has both enabled and hindered our ability to connect with others on a deeper level,” said co-producer Mandy Tan.
A good look at modern day relationships
What “Catfished” has done well is to shed light on how digital apps and social media can be misused and its effects on one’s mental health. The motivations are clear for the characters of Bee Ling and Audrey, but not so for the case Celia. I left the theatre without sufficient context as to what drove her need to commit love scams after the end of a longstanding love affair.
The use of multimedia such as the large digital screen as a backdrop was effective in delivering the juxtaposition between communication via text and in-person. Minute details such as the use of a flickering stage light to represent the unresolved relationship between Audrey and her husband was a nice touch.
At the end of the play, however, I left the theatre with so many questions: Have we neglected face to face communication for false digital connections? Can we really trust who and what we see online?
If you’re looking for a theatre show on the reality of modern day relationships and the negative effects of technology, “Catfished” is a production you should catch. You will walk away with a couple of laughs and a serious reflection on whether technology has been helpful in connecting us with the world today.
‘Catfished’ is presented by The FLUX Media. It is directed by Yeo Lyle, written by Dennis Toh, script edited by Neo Hai Bin and produced by Mandy Tan and Dennis Toh. The cast consists of actors Jasmine Xie, Veracia Xiyu, Joy Yak, Dennis Toh, Benjamin Koh and Nicklaus Chia.
The play runs from Friday to Sunday (26 to 28 May) at Gateway Theatre Black Box. Tickets are available on Peatix and Sistic.
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