Review: User Not Found at the Norwich Theatre Royal

Dante or Die’s User Not Found stages an unsettling scenario in a small, cosy café. Through the use of smartphones and headsets, the talented actor takes the audience on an intimate journey through his mind and his late lover’s internet presence, asking one central question: what do you do with your loved one’s online presence after they die?

The play is both an exploration of grief and of online legacies; the loss experienced by our main narrator and his confusion regarding his new position as online “executor” are portrayed as a mess of sounds and visual media. The late lover becomes known to the audience through pictures in a smartphone gallery, years of Tweets, and jumbled memories. The confusion and anxiety of the narrator is palpable; the sound of relaxing waterfalls mixed with unpleasant noises rises in volume alongside his voice when he is overwhelmed.

The cosy café makes for an interesting location, and the narrator often comments on the lives and emotions of the people around him. An old couple, a pretentious artist, a woman who eats her cake very slowly – these people are all part of his journey through death and his partner’s internet legacy, yet they remain silent extras. The portrayal of the modern-day isolation we experience from the people that physically surround us while we live through our phones is enhanced by the audience’s actual use of mobiles: we are encouraged to follow the actor as he speaks and moves, to look at the people beside us, yet still maintain the focus on the phone in our hands.

The play poses a variety of interesting questions, of living for posterity, keeping someone alive through their social media accounts, and our responsibility towards our lost loved ones. Is it fair to leave your legacy in the hands of someone else, without instructions? How do you untangle years of online media – Tweets, Facebook posts, photos – and decide what is worth keeping? And, perhaps most importantly, how do you handle being the person in charge, when there are relatives, friends, lovers even, who want to have a say in the matter?

The beautiful arrangement of the location transforms a simple café into a place that is vivid with memories, love, and grief. The actor swims through the muddy waters of recollection, screams and whispers, and despite the strangers sitting in the audience right beside you, it is easy to lose yourself in the experience. The colourful lighting, expertly mixed sound, and highly capable actor make this a truly unique performance, and one worth not missing.

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May 2022
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