Preview: Mojave

Rose Aitchison 30 October 2017

Mojave, conceived and directed by Jonathan Ben-Shaul, seems to be beyond the realms of a normal ADC late show. The play is ‘entirely devised from extensive archival resources’ about the mysterious ‘Mojave Phone Booth’, isolated in the middle of the Mojave Desert, California. The play came about after Ben-Shaul heard about the cult phone booth on a podcast, and decided to research it further, only to find a lack of cohesive information. He found the concept of untraceable information ‘totally foreign to how we see technology now – when everything is stored and searchable,’ and from this starting point he began to try to piece together a comprehensive story about communication and the ways in which it has been ‘radically and indelibly changed by advances in technology.’

The play, in Ben-Shaul’s words, ‘follows the story of Goddfrey ‘Doc’ Daniels after he finds a letter-to-the-editor in the back of a zine called ‘Whig Out’ which says nothing but ‘Mojave Phone Booth’, followed by a number and the instruction ‘Let it ring a long time if you want a response’. The story traces Doc’s discovery of the booth, its rise to cult status as a place for anonymous interaction and unexpected conversation and its eventual removal. Considered by many to be a precursor to an internet chatroom in the early days of the internet, Mojave is a story about communication and technology.’

The form of the play itself will be a further commentary on the divide between analogue and digital communication, using physical theatre and livestreaming, with music mixed live on stage every night by sound architect Christian Hines, making each performance an individual experience. As put by Ben-Shaul ‘a lot of the most interesting moments in this story for me are very visual and so I wanted to pick a form which could cater for that visuality. There is an interesting parallel between ‘tele’-communication being slowly digitised and communication in the theatre being increasingly outperformed by digitised film. That is what I hope the live stream does to the play – it both enhances and distorts the action.’ Further to this, the team plan on using tight pockets of light as well as handheld lighting manipulated by the cast to enhance the video output as well as create clearly defined spaces, which is important in a show that is so ‘focused on distances between people’.

Overall, Ben-Shaul wants audience members to leave the show thinking about the effect that technology is having on how we communicate, but also to just enjoy an enigmatic story of a bygone era. The innovative staging alone seems enough to recommend Mojave, but that innovation combined with Ben-Shaul’s talent for devising physical theatre, would have me suggest that this is not a production to miss.

Mojave is on from the 1st to the 4th November, 11pm at the ADC theatre.