Caro Meets Spoken Word Interview Theatre Interview

Claire Gaydon: See-Through

By | Published on Friday 19 April 2019

You may have already seen Claire Gaydon’s solo show ‘See Through’, because it’s already had a very successful visit to the Edinburgh Fringe, and a recent run at Vault Festival. If you haven’t, definitely carry on reading, because this is a really interesting show that I think you’ll want to learn more about.

The show focuses on the life of a YouTuber, and deals with some of the issues faced by those who choose to make a career on the video sharing platform. To find out more about the show and what inspired it, I spoke to Claire ahead of her imminent run at Camden People’s Theatre.

CM: Can you start by giving us a brief outline of what the show is about?
CG: ‘See-Through’ follows the journey of a 29 year old out of work actor who tries to become a YouTuber. She’s the archetypal millennial who was told she could do and be whatever she wanted and is now feeling like a failure. We see her experiment with making different types of videos in order to gain views and subscribers and we see the reactions she gets from her online audience. As she breaks down more and more barriers between her and her online audience, and her videos become more and more confessional, she begins to struggle in defining her own boundaries.

CM: And can you explain what type of performance to expect? How would you describe it in terms of style/genre
GC: The style is difficult to put a finger on. The show is devised and although I’ve written a script It feels more like a template as the live elements are always slightly different each night. There’s a lot of video which is mostly fly on the wall style documentary footage. I play a version of myself in the show and it’s deliberately ambiguous as to how much of the story is about me and how much is fiction. It feels like a hybrid between documentary, devised theatre and live art.

There’s a strong comedy element throughout but the end is serious. The show highlights parts of the YouTube Industry that are problematic and fairly harrowing.

CM: Is there an intention to educate? And would you consider it political?
GC: There’s an intention to highlight things for sure. In trying to develop a genuine and authentic connection with her audience Claire creates confessional videos. At first they feel empowering, but they quickly digress into something that feels self-exploitative. YouTube’s algorithm favours clickbait and controversial content over anything else so it’s not a surprise that young people are feeling the pressure to create these types of videos.

CM: How did you go about creating the show – did it take a lot of research? How do you start when putting this sort of performance together?
GC: I knew I wanted to make a show about YouTube but it took a while for me to find the direction. At first I was just researching and making bits and pieces like in a devising process. An important day was when I found a trailer for someone’s YouTube channel and decided I would make something similar. I was working with associate director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart that day and she could tell I was really excited. She questioned why I should stop at the trailer, why not try the whole thing?

CM: So, 34% of young people chose YouTuber as their top career choice…? Why do you think it’s so appealing?
GC: I think on the surface it feels like a career choice that celebrates you being you. It’s about being understood and accepted and appreciated for who you are. And these all seem like things we really really want. On a subconscious level I think it’s a career choice that’s perfectly suited with our current cultures’ ‘ideal self’. A theory I read about in Will Storr’s book Selfie which makes total sense to me:

“It’s usually depicted as an extroverted, slim, beautiful, individualistic, optimistic, hard-working, socially aware yet high-self-esteeming global citizen with entrepreneurial guile and a selfie camera. It enjoys thinking it’s in some way unique, that it’s trying to ‘make the world a better place’, and one of the traits it’ll value highly is that of personal authenticity, or ‘being real’. It’ll preach that in order to find happiness and success, you must be ‘true to yourself’ and follow your dreams’. And if you dream big enough…you’ll discover that ‘anything is possible’. Oh and it’s usually younger than thirty.”

I would guess that if the survey was done today and we changed the job title from ‘YouTuber’ to ‘Social Media Influencer’, (which covers YouTuber and Instagram as well as other platforms) we would see an even higher percentage of young people choosing this as their top career choice.

CM: Apparently, though, many successful YouTubers seem to end up struggling, mental health-wise. Do you think it’s the YouTubing that causes that, or is it not that clear cut?
CG: I think mental health is always complicated and it’s different for every YouTuber but for sure I think it’s a very stressful job. The workload is intense and the pressure to constantly upload new material means it’s easy to burn out. It’s emotionally draining too. Presenting yourself and your personal life as your work takes its toll. Likewise, I think many people who work at a similar level to me in my industry are struggling too.

CM: What made you want to tackle this subject, and create a show about it?
CG: Before 2017 I didn’t even watch YouTubers. I basically had no idea about it. When I came across the statistic that 34% of young people chose YouTuber as their top career choice, I was pretty shocked. I started watching videos out of curiosity, my initial question being ‘why, why do they want to do this?’ As I came across more and more confessional content I started thinking about the desire to connect and and how, as a theatre-maker who uses partly autobiographical material, I totally identify with that too. I’d gone from thinking ‘what the hell?’ to totally empathising with that 34%.

CM: Is all the work you do like this – solo, multimedia…? And what attracted you to this type of work? Is this what you always envisaged for yourself, career wise?
CG: Thematically I’ve always been fascinated by technology and how it’s changing the way we connect with each other. And I’ve always loved multimedia, especially in theatre.

I’ve made three solo shows but the soloness has always been because I felt it’s what the show needed. My first show is slightly different because I began developing it at drama school as part of a solo theatre module. But my second show, Somebody I Used to know and See-Through felt like they needed to have just one performer. I’m envisioning that my new show will have two other performers in it though, which will be fun!

And yes and no. I’ve always wanted to make my own work but I guess I didn’t really know what that meant or what that might look like.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
CG: I want to keep exploring things that I find interesting. My new show, ‘Piece of Me’ that I began developing this year feels like it will be quite different. I’ll be working with a choreographer and two dancers as well as a video artist and music producer.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after this?
CG: ‘See-Through’ is touring more in the autumn and next spring. Dates will be on my website when they’re announced. I’m also currently creating a new show with Zest Theatre called ‘Youthquake’ that I’m really excited about. That’ll be touring in Autumn/Spring too.

And alongside that I’ll be putting a plan of action together for ‘Piece of Me’. This will be my most ambitious show yet so feeling very excited/terrified…

‘See-Through’ is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 23-27 Apr, see the venue website here for more information and to book.

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Photo: Tom Stayte