I’m not known for writing ‘proper reviews’…

So instead, I just wanted to quickly share an experience I had yesterday at the University of Salford Creative Entrepreneur Event.

It’s a social media play called ‘Handles’ (#HandlesMcr) and it’s pretty damn cool.

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** Yes, some minor spoilers here, but nothing worth worrying about**

Pink Status

Handles, written by award winning short story writer Tom Mason and directed by Benedict Power, has been around since the start of the year, and was the winner of re:play Festival’s 2013 Pitch Party.

The concept is simple; several short stories on stage with a real time Hashtag on Twitter to expand the storyworld.

Audiences are invited to join the conversation; tweet and share throughout to get involved in the world of ‘Handles’, the world’s third largest social network.

Silver Status

As an experience, ‘Handles’ is interesting as it depicts what can only be described as dystopian future created by our obsession with social media.

‘Handles’ pretty much rules the world, even to the point where you aren’t known by your name… not until you reach the right status anyway.

(Yes I’m looking you ‘Pink’)

What’s mad though is how strikingly similar to real life it felt.

From nightclubs filled with people standing around on social media to twerking in the garden just to gain shares.

Some of the most touching moments actually come in the form of neglect, whether that be the neglect of a friend, or a career or even a relationship as seen in the case of one particular character determined to be the first person in the UK to reach ‘Platinum Status’.

I managed to catch up with Tom after the show and had an interesting conversation about the ‘currency’ of the play; not money, but views (Handle’s version of shares).

It’s gets characters into private parties, gains them online fame or buys them drinks, just throw a couple of views around and you’re set.

Gold Status

The social media tie-in itself was a fairly simple set up, displayed on screen behind the performers, providing both, a real time Twitter feed (acting as a back drop to the story, Inc. which character was currently trending/ hated etc) and a means for the audience to get involved.

As an audience you are able to use the Hashtag and get your Tweet RT’d on the screen behind. All of this, controlled on the fly by Mason himself in the control box.

The response to the play was great, and people all around me were getting involved. I just wish I could have taken that extra step and engaged with a character off stage after they had performed a scene.

Tom explained, how, in previous iterations of the play, Twitter was broken down into two feeds, one for actors and one for viewers; however, this soon became too overwhelming for audiences and as a result the social media aspect was scaled back.

From a viewing experience I think that ‘Handles’ is quite close to something great, and finding that middle ground between live interactions with audiences/characters is key.

PLATINUM Status

Overall I think Handles is great concept with a cool story and nice performances and it’s certainly a step in the right direction for interactive live performance.

Congrats to Tom, Benedict and all of the performers who were involved in the project.

*Handles will back in Salford in January 2015, so I do recommend you check it out.

Lee Robinson
About the author

23yr old film nerd, comic book and video game geek and all round Transmedia Fanatic…Oh, and I also have a 1st degree in Media, Writing and Production. More here...

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