User Not Found @ Jeelie Piece Café (Traverse)

Chris Goode's site-specific play about what happens to our digital footprint after we die

Review by Katie Hawthorne | 14 Aug 2018

You might already know Jeelie Piece café – a bright, airy spot on Leven Street that serves great iced tea and a bounty of sticky treats. If you don’t, you’ll know a café like it. One where soft, sunny music – Norah Jones, perhaps – hums on the radio, as an old couple share a paper in companionable silence, a student spreads notes over the window seat, a determined millennial freelancer stares deep into a Mac.

User Not Found, by site-specific innovators Dante or Die and written by Chris Goode, furnishes you with headphones and a smartphone, so you’ll feel right at home in this café of busy, but separate, lives. When our narrator (played by Terry O’Donovan) first introduces himself as a voice in your ear, he’s hard to spot. He could be anyone.

Your new phone becomes a spy-glass and a time-turner. As Terry inherits the social media legacy of an ex-partner, he leads the café’s audience through a three month-long dilemma: should he delete the accounts, or preserve them as a kind of memorial? Directed by Daphna Attias, O’Donovan’s captivating solo-performance is sharply familiar, and the entire room becomes his stage (lit beautifully by Zia Bergin-Holly) as he wrestles with the intimate memories, or lack thereof, imperfectly frozen on his partner’s digital timelines. There is surreal magic in the seemingly everyday details of this expertly crafted show, as Dante or Die trade on your familiarity with the technology at your fingertips. Most magically of all, they light the room with the power of tactile, human connection.

User Not Found balances public and private issues with nuance, but it leaves some haunting, timely questions intentionally unsolved. When you get the bus home and absent-mindedly pull out your own, well-loved phone from your pocket, it’ll be tough to shake the implications of your borrowed handset’s flickering screen.  

User Not Found, Traverse Theatre (Jeelie Piece Café), 3-26 Aug (not 20), £9.50–£20.50

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