There’s a disease sweeping the world. It’s incredibly infectious, it’s an unknown pathogen, and it reduces its sufferers to uncontrollable bouts of weeping. It passes from person to person on contact, and with the right pair of eyes, it looks a little like empathy. That’s the setup behind Daniel Bye’s probing mash-up of documentary theatre and politically charged speculative fiction. It’s funny, wise, impeccably performed, and if its mass of ideas never quite coalesce into a wholly satisfying piece, Going Viral is further proof that Bye is one of the most astute and thoughtful contemporary theatremakers around.
Sitting among his audience, Bye’s style is warm and conversational as he shares his hand sanitizer and rifles through a backpack of over-the-counter medication. On a surface level he teaches us about the cellular processes behind infection, about the statistics of viral spread, with all the friendly charm and clarity of a Royal Institution Christmas lecture. But on another level he’s speaking about a world of emotional austerity, and of a politics in which the shared experiences of a society can become as suspicious or rare as a disease.
There are threads here, including the relationship between #hastagged global trends and communicable disease, which feel insufficiently fleshed out, but only because Going Viral is so thoroughly teeming with fresh ideas and ingeniously framed perspectives.