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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Theatre review: Hyperlink’s storytelling is engaging, but it could take more risks

Exploration of our online lives is at its best when the stories are heartfelt

Hyperlink is dynamically staged with thoroughly engaging storytellers, but more risk and reveal would have made this fun show more profound.

TJ Dawe is a renowned storyteller with a charming and witty stage presence. Itai Erdal is an open-hearted lighting designer who has recently started appearing on the stages that he lights as a performer.

Working with visionary director Rachel Peake the trio created Hyperlink, an exploration our digital world where anonymity can make us callous, and where a lack of veracity can lead to lies. Using stories and sketches from their own observations and experiences, it is supplemented by online research.

Peake keeps the stage alive with movement, energetic lighting (of course), and by using three screens broadcasting online videos.  Double bass player Mark Haney not only underscores with live music, but also participates in the show.

Hyperlink is at its best when the stories are heartfelt as the performers reveal real contradictions, or shocking truths. For example, at one point Dawe talks about how he is Facebook friends with a right-wing conspiracy theorist. In another, Erdal tells the story of a Craigslist sublet which turns dark.

Some of the sequences don’t pay off though. Asking the audience to do the Harlem Shake in animal masks is fun, but to what end? Same with the almost ubiquitous game show sequence in which statistics about Internet traffic and usage are presented purely as data, but do nothing to shock or provoke.

There is also a sequence where an online dating profile is created on what appears to be a fake website, and then nothing comes of it. The scene would have perhaps benefited from using a real Tinder profile where it could be checked later in the show to see if there were any matches.

Still, Dawe and Erdal are super charming men, and the stories they tell about our online lives will make you laugh and sometimes make you sad.

With its playful staging, this 70-minute show whizzes past, making it something you want to share, like a meme or an amusing online video.

Hyperlink written and performed by TJ Dawe & Itai Erdal. Directed by Rachel Peake. A Firehall Arts Centre presentation of an Elbow Theatre production. On stage at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 East Cordova St, Vancouver) until October 14. Visit for tickets and information.

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