Tuesday, 30 March 2021

REVIEW: Chronic Insanity's Flavour Text (Online)

Read the comments! Something I steer well clear of these days, however, Flavour Text, Chronic Insanity’s latest instalment of their ambitious year-long digitally-focused project 12 plays in 12 months, mandates that you take the plunge and do just that. Your reward will be falling into a vortex of carefully curated dark corners of the web on a unique, virtual journey to uncover the truth about why your favourite Italian restaurant is closed!

The Nottingham company aim to tell stories about digital worlds that are becoming increasingly important in our lives. Launched on March 29th, Flavour Text is described as an internet-wide narrative treasure hunt written by Megan Gates, Charlotte Holder, Ruth Mestle, Harry Smith and Sophie Whitebrook with design and direction from Joe Strickland. As stated above, it begins with finding out that your favourite Italian restaurant has closed and somehow ends up making you complicit in a web of lies, government cover-ups and the story behind a series of missing persons via the convention of falling into an internet rabbit hole.

Each step you take with the click of your mouse takes you to a series of web sites purpose-built for the experience, each with incredible attention to detail. Platforms resembling familiar online go to’s such as Twitter, Yelp and Myspace (or Moospace) all contain fleshed out comments and threads to scourer through to create an unsettling feeling as they form a familiar yet unfamiliar world. Diversions to real websites disorientate and blur the line of reality. Clues to uncover the next part of the unfolding mystery are embedded into this detail and the great vastness of the internet makes it feel like your next click could take you anywhere in its ephemeral universe. Chronic Insanity ingeniously promotes an active engagement from its audience and creates an online community that, well, doesn’t exist. They are very sneaky too. They offer a feeling of autonomy when participating in the experience, not, in fact, the actual case since the path is set out to produce only one outcome. 

If you are computer literate and familiar with the traditional workings of the platforms emulated on this journey, then you should not have too much trouble navigating your way through the clues, it might just take a little extra inquisitiveness. If you are not overly computer literate, this experience might prove somewhat more challenging, and stressful at times, which I admit happened to me quite early on. Although it is possible to feel completely lost if you do get stuck, you always have the option to Tweet for help. The instructions to do this are given before commencing. I came close to doing this a few times, however, stubbornness proved a positive asset. There is also an immense sense of satisfaction when you finally locate the next piece of the puzzle.

Despite the totality, Chronic Insanity has achieved in creating this virtual experience the storyline being chased itself by the participant is not overly original. It should also be mentioned that there is a significant amount of reading involved which can be slightly fatiguing. In saying this, any negatives are minimal and inevitable when experimenting with a new format. If Chronic Insanity continues to develop this idea, I am incredibly excited to see where they can take it. This type of theatrical innovation will play a fundamental role in the future of art and performance.

The whole experience is expected to take around 45-60min, however, you can take it at your own pace and leave it for a while and come back when you wish. I would recommend a tea break halfway through. I completed it in one sitting that lasted a little over an hour. 

Flavour Text will be available to view online until 31st December 2021.

For this experience, you will need to access to powered up computer, audio and your email.

The Show is available with audio description.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £10/8
Blog Design by pipdig