Interview with Liam Hallahan – Red Pill – Theatre Upstairs
We had the chance to talk to Liam Hallahan ahead of the opening of Red Pill at Theatre Upstairs. It is a one man show, which Liam wrote and stars in. It is a play about love, revenge and the dangers of the internet. You can see the results below…
Have you read Jon Ronson’s book ‘So you’ve been publically shamed’? It’s a book that discusses the power of the internet, and how a stray tweet or Facebook post can ruin your life, if it goes viral. Do you think people realise the dangers of social media? Is it a thing that can be controlled?
I love that book! Jon Ronson is one of my favourite non-fiction writers and storytellers.
I think people are aware that that pretty much everything we say and do is being viewed by strangers (whether it’s advertisers or government agencies), which has made people a good deal more aware of how powerful social media is. We have to be careful about what we post online. Our data’s valuable. It’s still a wild west out there, though there are definitely some serious attempts to curtail and control the internet, like the fight that’s going on over Net Neutrality.
Are we too flippant to brand someone a racist or bigot due to a throw away comment on social media?
I think it’s important to hold people to account for shitty things they say, but call-out culture, particularly on some social media websites, has gotten particularly out of hand. Whenever someone comes into the spotlight, there are some people who immediately start combing through every tweet or post they’ve ever made to be the first to find some ‘receipts’, ‘proving’ that they’re a bad person. Trevor Noah springs to mind; he got branded as a racist for some unfunny tweets he’d made several years before he got the Daily Show gig. A bit extreme.
It’s worth talking to people about problematic things they say though. Not necessarily going ‘YOU’RE A MONSTER’, more like ‘dude what’. Often people simply were unaware of their prejudices, and when it’s brought up, they change their ways and try to be more respectful. Honest discourse helps.
Unless they’re a Nazi. In which case you punch them.
There are many people that seem to love annoying people on line, saying things to deliberately antagonise. Is this due to the faceless nature of the net?
Yep, for definite. This is one of the things I explore in the show; what creates an internet troll? What drives someone to do that to another person? I don’t attempt to give a definitive answer in the play, and I won’t here, because it doesn’t exist. Everyone who does it does so for a particular reason, whether it’s nature or nurture.
The facelessness and anonymity is one of the great things about the internet. You can be whatever you want to be, not just a shitty troll. It’s been a safe space for socially awkward, disenfranchised or marginalized people for a super long time. It allows people to find new communities and people who share their interests. But when those interests include white supremacy, flat earth conspiracy theories, misogyny…. ehhhhh.
It’s a blessing and a curse in that way.
Does the internet need to be controlled in some fashion to stop these things happening, or do the positives outweigh the negatives?
The internet should NEVER be controlled. At the end of the day, it’s become a public utility, something that everyone is pretty much required to use. Limiting the internet is something that could be very easily exploited by government or corporate interests. It already is in a lot of ways.
That said, I do think on a site-by-site basis, moderators and administrators do have a responsibility to the users to make them feel safe from harassment. Because, if they don’t, the users may as well take their business elsewhere. Twitter is the primary place people get harassed, anonymously or not. And they haven’t done jack shit! They’ve made some token moves towards curtailing it, without addressing the actual problems. When someone calls out an actual, literal, honest to God Nazi and gets their account limited or suspended for it, something is incredibly wrong.
Is this your first one man show? Any fear or apprehension about this?
Yep, first time. I was really nervous about doing this show! Not just because of the ‘oh god, am I a good actor’ angle but because of the ‘oh god, am I a good writer’ angle. If I spent 2 years writing on-and-off and all this rehearsing only for the show to be crap, that’d be demoralizing!
If Paul Doran, my director, hadn’t been so amazing, I would have probably been doubting myself every step of the way, so I owe a lot to him. The test run in the Prague Fringe put any remaining fears to bed. Considering we got nominated both for the Inspiration Award (for new work) and the Performance Award, it’s super gratifying! No more fears at this point.
Well a few fears. But I’m gonna use them to help me get through the 18 performances!
How many parts do you play in the production? Do you switch between many characters?
The play is ostensibly Ben’s story. We see the world through his eyes. There are other characters who come into that world (Ben’s parents, his best friend Helen), and they aren’t portrayed as caricatures. But they’re still filtered through Ben’s perception of the world, even as his worldview morphs over the course of the play.
Have you worked with director Paul Doran before?
Paul has been on board since the work-in-progress version we did in Collaborations 2015. Since then he’s been patiently waiting for drafts and news as I’ve tried to get the show programmed. Once we got the news about Prague, we hit the ground running, and he’s been amazing. He ‘fell into’ lighting design and technical work, and has worked with Steppenwolf in Chicago, and Mouth on Fire here in Dublin. He’s a phenomenal director. Really relaxed, with a really strong dramaturgical eye. Great at killing darlings. Work with him. He’s fab.
What was your worst mistake on social media? Anything you regret?
But seriously, I could write a whole show about the weird embarrassing shit I’ve seen and done online.
In fact, maybe I am… I’m not but I have some ideas!