“a beautiful dance of love, death and grief delivered via a single live performer (the phenomenal Terry O’Donovan), headphones and mobile phones.” - The Independent, Lyn Gardner
It's the moment of your death.
There’s a magic button.
Do you delete your entire online legacy?
Or do you keep it – and leave the choice for someone else?
USER NOT FOUND is about our digital lives after we die. Our new production has been created with pioneering theatre-artist Chris Goode and digital design company Marmelo. It is performed in cafés: audience members receive a smartphone and a pair of headphones and are immersed in one man’s story as he’s faced with keeping or deleting his partner’s online existence. A story of contemporary grief unfolds through this intimate, funny performance that gently interrogates our need for connection.
User Not Found premiered to critical accalim as part of Traverse Theatre's 2018 Edinburgh Fringe programme. It has toured to fourteen cafes across the UK and Ireland to sold out houses and will tour nationally and internationally in 2019. We have published the playscript of User Not Found, which includes imagery from Marmelo's app design. We're really proud of it - and you can buy it directly from the brilliant publishers Oberon RIGHT HERE.
The digitial designers at Marmelo have built a captioning tool within the smarthpones to embed captions for the performance. Collaborating with our Access Associate Sophie Gunn, every performance is accessible to D/deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members. If you're interested in hearing more about how Luke and Abhinav at Marmelo collaborated with us, and how they built the app you can watch a video with them here.
The 2018 tour of User Not Found has been incredible. We performed the show 57 times in 17 cafés. Thank you to all of the audiences who joined us. We're busy preparing our 2019 tour and will have more details here soon.
Traverse Theatre @ Jeelie PIece at the Edinburgh Fringe
PULSE Festival @ New Wolsey, Ipswich
Departure Lounge, Derby Theatre
The Townhouse Cafe @ Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick
South Street Reading
The Garden Cafe with Brighton Dome & Brighton Digital Festival
Lincoln Drill Hall
Mansfield Old LIbrary
The Edge Cafe, Bath
Attenborough Centre for Arts, Leicester
Pot Kettle Black with HOME Machester's Orbit Festival
Canvas Coffee with New Theatre Royal Portsmouth
- Created by Daphna Attias, Terry O'Donovan & Chris Goode
- Created in collaboration with Marmelo
- Directed by Daphna Attias
- Writing by Chris Goode
- Performed by Terry O'Donovan
- Creative Technology Design by Marmelo
- Lighting & Set Design by Zia Bergin-Holly
- Composition & Sound Design by Yaniv Fridel
- Video Design by Preference Studio
- Access Development & Captioning by Sophie Gunn
- Costume Design & Design Assistance by Alessia Mallardo
- Technical Stage Managers Tom Clutterbuck & Philippa Mannion
In 2015 we read Caroline Twigg’s article in The Guardian, questioning what should happen to her husband’s digital legacy after his sudden death. Her writing is a moving depiction of grief magnified through the screen-life of the man she had lost in reality. We could immediately picture a performance inspired by this contemporary evolution of grieving. Our audience would see into the online world of someone faced with the questions that go hand in hand with any legacy: what should or shouldn’t you read and how privacy has changed as smartphones have become so entwined with our lives.
Our process has been enlightening. We met with John Troyer at University of Bath’s Centre for Death & Society, questioned Aleks Krotoski who has written on digital afterlife in Untangling the Web and her BBC4 podcast The Digital Human. We’ve also collaborated with University of Reading on a research project exploring social media within contemporary performance.
We knew we needed a collaborator to build our imagined digital world. After many meetings trying to explain the project with a variety of what we were told were ‘creative technologists’, we met Luke and Abhinav from Marmelo. Their creative and detailed approach to both the subject matter and developing the technical language, platform & content has been a continued source of inspiration. If you're interested in hearing more about how they built the app for the production, you can watch this video that Luke & Abhinav have put together on their process.
We had three adjectives in mind for a writer to collaborate with: provocative, warm and human. Chris Goode was top of the list. Creating User Not Found with him has been a dream. Generous and insightful in his united approach, he contested our perceptions and crafted a script that has been a new challenge for us to direct and perform. Composer Yaniv Fridel has collaborated with us since day one and developed a world-within-a-world to immerse our audience in, alongside the rest of our inspirational creative team including designer Zia Bergin-Holly, videographers Preference Studio and a brilliant team of technical stage managers.
One of our initial instincts was to stage the performance in a café – the contemporary office/anonymous communal zone. People connecting to the world through screens, yet insulated from it by headphones. What if the person sitting next to us was watching the pop music video that reminded them of their lost lover, or getting a Facebook message with the worst news possible? We wanted to create an insular world of an individual within a communal space.
We hope the production will spark a conversation with the person sitting next to you and will amuse, move you and trigger a debate with your loved ones. We hope to hear from you and stay connected in this weird digital world that we’re all navigating, by tapping and swiping with our ‘real’ digits.
“Written with a chatty poetic restraint by Chris Goode, this show is a beautiful dance of love, death and grief delivered via a single live performer (the phenomenal Terry O’Donovan), headphones and mobile phones.“ ★★★★
Lyn Gardner in The Independent
“A tender, intimate story of love and letting go.” ★★★★
"handles mourning and technology with fingertip lightness" ★★★★ The Sunday Times
"There is surreal magic in the seemingly everyday details of this expertly crafted show... they light the room with the power of tactile, human connection." ★★★★★ The Skinny
“A raw and magnetic performance... a gorgeous show about grief in the era of hyper connectivity“. ★★★★
"it's a show where form and content combine, crossing the digital divide back into the real world...it has a haunting life-or-death power" - Scotland on Sunday
"This production is what theatre in 2018 should be - ambitious, contemporary and thought-provoking." ★★★★★ Broadway World
“It feels like a privilege to listen to and watch O’Donovan so intimately.” ★★★★
“O’Donovan’s understated but deeply emotional performance generates an ethereal experience of astonishing power“ ★★★★★
The Reviews Hub
"It’s a reflective piece about dealing with death and living online – two different kinds of absence wrapped up in one." ★★★★ Matt Trueman in Fest
"It’s a real feat in technology for the theatre...User Not Found is an amazing exploration of grief." Exeunt's review through a Twitter feed
WINNER - FRINGE GROUNDBREAKER AWARD - The Wee Review
WINNER - BEST THEATRE SHOW - Broadway World 2018
As part of this project, we partnered with Professor Emeritus Lib Taylor of the University of Reading, who researched the use of social media within immersive performance. An AHRC-funded project, it was a collaboration between ourselves, University of Reading's Film, Theatre & Television Dept, Marmelo, John Troyer at University of Bath's Centre for Death & Society and South Street Reading.
Over a seven-month period Lib Taylor & John Troyer collaborated on the development of the production through leading workshops around digital ownership, legacy and identity including interviews & conversations with professionals from the death industry. A day-long symposium at University of Reading exploring current digital performances culminated in a preview performance of User Not Found, followed by a lengthy group discussion with delegates. This has led to a paper being published on the production in a performance journal in Hungary.
Lib presented her research at the prestigious International Federation of Theatre Research in Belgrade in July 2018. You can read more about the collaboration on the project's website.
User Not Found is the recipient of In Good Company's mid-career artist commission and was developed with the support of artsdepot's Creative Residencies, Southbank Centre, University of Reading, South Street, The New Wolsey Theatre, Roundhouse London & Stone Nest.
The project is funded by IMAF, AHRC, Cockayne - Grants for the Arts & The London Community Foundation, The Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fund & Arts Council England.