In 2015, Potential Difference were approached by theatre company The Future Is Unwritten with a brief of devising a way of giving audience members the impression that they had been hacked, as a key part of their production Still. Clearly, the approach had to be legal and ethically responsible and to tie into the themes of privacy and image-taking that the play was tackling.
We spent a few days in workshops with writer/director Paul Hodson and production manager Chris Umney while they were in the early stages of developing the script for Still. During that time we proposed a few different approaches we could take, what effect they might have on an audience, how likely they would be to work and what the technical challenges would be. At the end of this process we decided settled on the approach of developing a smartphone app for use by audience members. We made a prototype to accompany work-in-progress performances of Still at Ovalhouse in 2015. This was then developed a full version for the finished production.
About the show
In 2009 (reallife) Vivian Maier died lonely and alone in Chicago. Among her possessions were a treasure trove of photographs- now becoming acknowledged as the best street photography of the 20th century. Yet Maier lived a “reclusive” life - working as a nanny and taking photos in her spare time - never speaking about her, let alone wanting her work exhibited. Yet now her outstanding work is shown all over the world, books of her photographs have been published and a play is being made about her life... She would have been aghast that her privacy had been invaded.
H is a (fictional) hacker from London. She H “procures data” for big companies and governments and her workload and lifestyle are doing her in. On the verge of a meltdown she finds herself in Chicago encountering the work and life of a dead photographer...
Still is a magical realist imaginary meeting between H and Maier. Set in a gallery space it’s funny, edgy, emotional experience: celebrating Maier’s work and exploring what we give away - knowingly and unwittingly.