A theatre show that explores the “polarization” of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms is coming to a Surrey stage this month, with India’s “No Farmers, No Food” movement of special focus.
The interactive, documentary-style “Conspiracy Now: Is Democracy Dead?” has the goal of getting audience members to investigate critical issues in current events and question the manipulation tactics of social media.
The “choose your price” tickets range from $5 to $25 for the Surrey Civic Theatres-presented event, billed as part interactive game, part social discussion, part theatrical performance.
“Through real-world examples, games and discussions, each participant will have the opportunity to dissect the issues, connect with others, and participate in more nuanced conversations about important issues,” explains an event advisory posted to surrey.ca/theatre.
“Thought-provoking and fun, this game-play style of theatre is sure to be a performance you remember for a very long time.”
Launched in 1995 and co-lead by Tim Carlson, David Mesiha and Gavan Cheema, Theatre Conspiracy aims to create theatrical events that activate discussion on vital contemporary themes.
“This is a show that makes space for important and difficult conversations,” said Cheema, who lives in Surrey and is the project lead on this new production for the company. “We created it because we want to challenge the polarization that is happening online, because we keep getting fed information from algorithms, which is increasing pulling our society further apart.
“What Theatre Conspiracy is trying to chip away at is that if we are all together in a room, and even if we have different views, we can talk to each other, empathize with each other, and have a dialogue that is actually face-to-face.”
Addressing the India’s farmers protests was important work for the company, added Cheema, who joined Theatre Conspiracy as associate artistic director last year.
“The protests are something we are passionate about. I am a first-generation kid of immigrants, as are other Theatre Conspiracy members. We still have family in India, some of whom are farmers, or we have family who have left farming to come here. It was important for us to bring the show to Surrey, because a large percentage of Surrey’s population is Punjabi.
“We wanted to create a space in our community where people can talk about this,” Cheema added. “What Conspiracy Now does is takes that discussion offline and give people an avenue to express how they feel with other people. This issue affects so many people in our population. It has been happening since January, and it is the largest global protest in a democratic country. It just feels like something that is pressing, and we need to give people a platform to discuss this issue and unpack all the information.”
The number of participants is capped at 25 per show time, at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24, and 4:30 and 7:30 on Sept. 25. Ticket details are posted to tickets.surrey.ca, or call 604-501-5566.
“To keep all patrons and staff safe, and to adhere to current public health guidelines, masks will be mandatory,” the event advisory notes. “Patrons will also be required to show proof of their vaccination certificate as well as government ID.
The advisory adds: “Participants and facilitators will be moving and talking throughout the performance but will remain physically distant from others. Materials are shared with the participants using projections on the screen in the studio. No material is physically shared.”
Surrey Arts Centre is located at 13750 88th Ave., at Bear Creek Park.