You might be too scared to cry ever again after this smart virus thriller-cum-lecture
Performer Daniel Bye and his regular director Dick Bonham have been dressing up agit-proppy messages in fun, accessible formats for yonks now. Their new storytelling show ‘Going Viral’ is no exception, taking the form of a virus outbreak thriller, which the perma-likeable Bye narrates from the perspective of two protagonists: a British man, who seems to have been the root cause of an epidemic of uncontrollable crying that he himself seems to be immune to, and a female Indian doctor working against the odds to try and fix things.
As it wears on it became fairly apparent that the whole thing is an allegory for the privileged West’s capacity to look away from the suffering of others, to tell ourselves that we have the right to not let it trouble us. But the important thing is that ‘Going Viral’ is also still a virus outbreak thriller, and a gripping one at that: whatever the allegorical message, there’s something genuinely creepy and disturbing about the idea of a disease that causes perpetual sobbing, and Bye sketches out his scenario in immaculate detail. And it’s spared from portentousness by the easygoing delivery and lecture-style various interludes in which Bye breaks off to chat to the audience about the nature of viruses – if you’re not sure what they are exactly, you’ll find out – and to try and make himself cry (in one literally eye-watering scene he munches down an entire raw chilli).
It doesn’t quite build to a killer payoff: the tale fades out a bit, and the whole thing is so easygoing that it’s hard to feel especially guilty at the end, despite the fact the story clearly implicates us. But hectoring isn’t Bye’s style; he’s an original and thought-provoking storyteller, and this is a fine story.